Time for a break… an All-Star Break.

The Power could not catch the Hickory Crawdads at the tail end of the first half, finishing seven and a half games back of division champs.  Hickory could pitch and play defense, and then hit when they really needed to.  It was disappointing, but only one team can be the champion in each half of play.  The 2015 edition of the West Virginia Power is fun to watch and can still contend in the second half.

Hickory had seven players initially selected for the South Atlantic League All-Star Game, which was played on June 23 in Asheville, North Carolina.  Greenville, the Southern Division club that got hawked for a title by Savannah, had a league-best eight players chosen.  The Power, a second place club that had the second-best record in the league when voting ended on June 4, initially had three players picked: Elvis Escobar, Junior Lopez and Yeudy Garcia.

Voting is very subjective.  Each team gets five ballots.  We gave each of our coaches a ballot, I filled out one and then we gave the fifth ballot to Rod “The Toastman” Blackstone.  To me, no one knows more about these potential All-Stars than our coaches and The Toast.

The thing about it is that the coaches only base their votes on who they have seen and really…  who they remember.  So our Media Relations staff ends up filling out the rest of the ballot.  Even with five votes from us, players were not guaranteed a spot.  Cole Tucker deserved to be an All-Star and there are six infield spots on the ballot, but wasn’t picked.  Junior Lopez was outstanding in the first half, but there is only one pitchers spot on each ballot… and somehow Lopez earned a nod.

More on the voting in a moment…

The trip began for the players on Sunday, June 21, after the game at home against Hickory.  I drove down separately on Monday morning, missing the optional tour of the historic Biltmore estate.  I did, however, make it to Asheville in time for the lazy river-esque float down the French Broad.

Just floating down the Broad...

Just four dudes floating down the Broad…

It was a relaxing trip with Tim Mueller, our general manager, Jeremy Taylor, our assistant GM, and Jay Silverman, our production manager.

Monday evening’s gala was a showcase of one of Asheville’s craft breweries.  They love their craft beer and there are no shortage of options.  Asheville is a cool town and only four and a half hours away from Charleston.  It is most definitely worth a weekend trip.

Prior to the last weekend of the first half, the South Atlantic League added infielder Chase Simpson to the All-Star roster.  Chase was another player, like Tucker, who I felt deserved the honor and I’m happy he was added.  Prior to the game Tuesday, I found our guys signing autographs for fans.

Can you sign this please?

Can you sign this please?

In January, Asheville’s broadcaster, Doug Maurer, asked me to join him on the call of the game.  After checking with my wife to see if she cared, I agreed to go.  Typically, I skip the All-Star festivities so I can see her and cut grass and do nothing for two or three days.  It was an honor to be asked and I was happy to play the sidekick for the night… as long as I got permission.

After the game, a 7-5 win by our Northern Division, I caught our players for a photo op.

The four Power All-Stars:  Junior Lopez, Elvis Escobar, Chase Simpson and Yeudy Garcia.

The four Power All-Stars: Junior Lopez, Elvis Escobar, Chase Simpson and Yeudy Garcia.

There was a post-game party at yet another craft brewery, where I spent time with Kannapolis’s Josh Feldman and a great friend of the Power, Amy Venuto.

Amy was standing still... I think.  She never stops moving.

Amy was standing still… I think. She never stops moving.

It was a great trip and I’m glad I got to experience the fun and festivities.

So… one more thing about the voting.  During a series prior to the break, an angry fan tweeted at the Power account about comments I made on the air regarding whether or not a player was All-Star worthy.  I said he was not and a fan of that player let us know that I was wrong.

Tweet 1

In fact, it is my job to (help) decide who is worthy.  I was not criticizing the player or saying he wasn’t good.  I just didn’t feel that his numbers were good enough to merit a selection.  Voting is such a subjective thing.  Look at the big league level where it is usually a popularity contest.  In the South Atlantic League, I feel it is more merit-based.

I sent a direct message to the fan and apologized.  I didn’t mean to offend anyone, but I also talk for three hours a night was was giving my honest and (I believe) objective opinion.

I’ll never have another bad day.

The HomeWrecker…

And no… I’m not talking about the season for an employee of a Minor League Baseball team.  Though I can understand how that could be misunderstood.

While Mike and the gear and the team were in Hagerstown and Hickory, I traveled to PA to see my family.  While in Greensburg one day, we went to Oliver’s Pour House on North Pennsylvania Avenue.  I had heard about Oliver’s, but never been there, so I was excited to try their food.  I went for broke and tried a burger called The HomeWrecker.

Did not wreck my whole home... just one room.

Did not wreck my whole home… just one room.

This is a classic burger with peanut butter, bacon, a sunny-side up egg and maple syrup.  It tasted as unusual as it sounds, but was still delicious.  Will I be making these myself at home?  No.  Will I go back and try it again?  Maybe.  I’d also like to try their Chicken Pesto Sandwich and the Bella Burger.

http://oliverspourhouse.com/

West Virginia returned home on April 21 to open a four game homestand against Delmarva.  The club lost the first game of the series 5-4, but won the next three before winning the first two on a road trip.  That five-game winning streak was the longest the team has put together this season.

An SAL Favorite- Lakewood's FirstEnergy Park

One of my SAL favorites- Lakewood’s FirstEnergy Park

On May 24 after the game, we hit the road for Lakewood.  FirstEnergy Park is always one of my favorite destinations, though I like it a little less now.  For years, I have raved about the Surf Taco stand out in right field.  Baseball America did a survey of ballparks and asked the broadcasters for the opinions.  I’m not one to shy away from that and gave them my rankings:

1. Lakewood’s FirstEnergy Park

2.  Greenville’s Fluor Field

3.  Asheville’s McCormick Field

I actually would rate our park third, even ahead of Greensboro’s NewBridge Bank Park.  Anyways…  Here is the link to the BA story:  http://www.baseballamerica.com/majors/best-ballparks-minors/

Notice the comments about ballpark #22.  Wonder where they got that?  The kicker about it is that Surf Taco moved out this season.  It is now the Tuscan Bistro.  I skipped it out of principal.

I like Lakewood for another reason.  It is as close as I get to New York City, so my best friend will drive down from Long Island to hang out.  We golfed…

The place where golf was invented...  Ok.  Not quite.  But the foursome in front of use had been playing since then.

The place where golf was invented… Ok. Not quite. But the foursome in front of us had been playing this round since then.

And went to Surf Taco.

Baja Bowl with Mahi at Surf Taco.

Baja Bowl with Mahi at Surf Taco.

I’ll never have another bad day.

A fun thing to do in Hagerstown…

From May 14-17, the Power were in Hagerstown, Maryland, to battle the Suns.  I, however, was not scheduled to make this trip.  A desire to see my family in Pennsylvania for the first time since Easter made this a perfect trip to send our broadcast assistant on.  I’ve been to Municipal Stadium and Hagerstown multiple times, including once already this season.

Now…  I don’t want to throw anyone under the bus in this post and, apparently, this was an early theme of the trip to Hagerstown.  Not getting thrown under the bus, that is…

IMG_4280

Pardon the spelling… We ain’t gud at that somtmes.

The team left at 8 am.  I got a text and then a call just after 11 am.  The broadcast equipment was left in Charleston.  I thought about it for 10 seconds, packed up and left Appalachian Power Park.  After tossing things into a suitcase (I was leaving Friday morning for PA and was not packed), I hopped on I-79 racing north.

Shortly into my unexpected trip, our manager, Brian Esposito, texted me to say he heard I was making a nice, leisurely drive to Municipal Stadium.  Is 85 mph leisurely?  Yes… I did speed a little.  Hagerstown is four and a half hours away.  It was noon and game one of the doubleheader started at 5:00 pm with a 4:45 pregame.

I made one stop along the way and got to the ballpark at 4:30.  We were set up and on the air right on time.

As for the mistake, things happen.  I was offered gas money, the whole trip’s per diem or a first-born child as a thank you.  None of that was needed.  Hopefully karma will repay me with not forgetting the gear somewhere.  Or perhaps the assistant will remember this and repay the favor to someone working for him down the road.

IMG_4278

As mentioned, I’ve been to Hagerstown a few times.  I will not rehash my feelings, but I will say this much: that town and fan base, what is left of it, deserves a commitment.  The ownership has waffled and been ready to walk (or take a leisurely drive as it were) to any other city that will build them a ballpark.  I get that.  This business is about being sustainable.  It is tough to be a relevant product in that ballpark.  How many fans has the desire to leave cost them?  in 2010, my first year in the league, the Suns drew 2,058 fans per game and this was just before the rumblings of leaving town.  This season, the Suns are announcing crowds of less than half that.

Hagerstown has great history and deserves a team…  perhaps a new park and a short-season club as I have mentioned in the past.  At the least, commit to the city and they will commit to you.

During our April trip, I was looking for a new restaurant to try on getaway day.  The interns recommended Karu Peru.  I saw a similar concept on Restaurant Startup on CNBC.  Full, half and quarter rotisserie chickens with sides.  They have the rotisserie right in the restaurant, pull the chicken off the spit and carve it up in front of you.

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This is a unique concept and I think could work in plenty of places.  Whatever Peruvian seasonings and sauces I ate, however, made this place a winner.

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I hope it is open in July when we head back and doesn’t go the way of the place across the street from Jerry’s apartment in Seinfeld.

pak-restaurant-490x260

Great food and good karma (I hope this post doesn’t ruin that).  I’ll never have another bad day.

Return of the Kerouac…

I’ll never have another bad day.  This is how I finish blog posts, but today it’s the lead.  Since my last post, I’ve had a few bad days, but it doesn’t compare to those days of others around me.  I’m not saying this to bring the room down, just use it as an explanation without filling you in on the details.

We have now played 25% of the 2015 season and it has been an adventure.  I really like the club that the Pittsburgh Pirates have sent our way this season.  These kids seem authentic and genuinely seem to care about each other.  That is not always the case.  I’ll talk more about this team this year than in year’s past, but for this post, I need to get caught up.

Our first roadstrip of the season began in Lexington.  That means a trip to Willie’s Locally Known.

Yes. Yes. Yes.  Like butter.

Yes. Yes. Yes. Like butter.

Go there for lunch and get the Burnt Ends.  It isn’t even on the menu anymore because they run out every day.

Willie’s Locally Known on the interweb

After Lexington, we hit up Kannapolis.  Three games in two days… because that is what we do in Kannpolis.  It ended with a school day game and the largest legitimate crowd I have seen in three years while at CMC-NorthEast Stadium.

Actual people actually in Kannapolis.

Actual people actually in Kannapolis’s ballpark.

Coupled with a few road trip splits, the team played exceptionally well at home.  Last year, the Power won seven home games the entire first half.  Seven.  Out of 33.  Seven.  This season, the team won nine home games… in the month of April!  Is it all just because of the new field?  Maybe?  Is it refreshing?  Absolutely.

Getting ready for the opener.

Getting ready for the opener.

So… we are onto road trip number three and our second excursion to Hagerstown out of three this season.  While Hagerstown is one of my least favorite stops along the SAL tour, I did find a new gem thanks to their staff: Karu Peru.  I’ll fill you in with my next post.

Wanna know why Hagerstown is near the bottom of my list?  This is how you get to the press box and I don’t travel light.

I’ll never have another bad day.

TCB… Taking care of business.

The most common question I get from September through March is something along the lines of “what do you do down there all day during the off-season?”  It is a valid question.  On one hand… Days in September are spent on Netflix, Hulu, etc, catching up on some shows or movies that I missed for one reason or another.   On the other hand…  Work does (eventually) start getting done.  We have off-season events at the park like a charity baseball game or our annual Trick-or-Treat night… More to come on that.  Of course, we also start selling and planning for next year too.

The biggest news this off-season, outside of the Power re-upping with the Pittsburgh Pirates for four more years is, no doubt, our new field.  This is a lengthy process that started long before the season ended, but the renovations began in early October.  I’ve taken a few pictures each day to show the progress, and those will soon see the light of day.  I can show you some of these pics I’ve taken with my iPhone to forward on to friends and Power manager Michael Ryan.

Bye bye old sod.

Bye bye old sod.

The company that did the resurfacing has also done several other minor league parks as well as both major outdoor stadiums in Washington, DC.  The process began by removing the old playing field at Appalachian Power Park, essentially five feet at a time.  The old sod was the original turf that was installed when the park was built in 2005.  Major League clubs have the ability and financial means to resurface a field every two or three years.  Minor League clubs tend to replace their playing fields every eight to ten seasons.

Sans grass.

Sans grass.

Consider this math:  An average of 67 Power games plus an average of 35 collegiate games plus nine high school state tournament games each season.  That is an average of 111 games per year and put this surface at well over 1,000 since 2005.  The new sod is then laid out just like the old stuff was removed: five feet at a time.

Laying it down.

Laying it down.

A major part of the off-season is planning for the new year.  On several separate occasions, our staff met to discuss what went right and what went wrong in 2014.  This conversation is held, in some form, in every Minor League Baseball front office across the country.  Our first meeting was held in the Legends Club at the ballpark before a staff lunch and bowling.  The second meeting was held at Adventures on the Gorge with zip-lining right after.

Half our crew... and Sharon from Washington (state or DC... I don't know).

Half our crew… and Sharon from Washington (state or DC… I don’t know).

2014 was our tenth anniversary season and we put together a pretty stout promotional campaign.  Coming off of that, I think we have some great things in the works for 2015.  I don’t want to reveal the entire schedule, but I will fill you in on some of the Top Ten promotional nights that you should see during the 2015 campaign.

The upcoming year marks the 25th anniversary of the Charleston Wheelers South Atlantic League Championship.  It looks like we will do a celebration our franchise’s only league title in late April, full with an appearance or giveaway and replica Wheelers jerseys.

He was a SS then.  Wow.

He was a SS then. Wow.

Popular staples like Redneck Night, Chuck’s Birthday and Back-to-School Night will return.  After the success of Wrestling Night last year with Mrs. Foley’s little boy, I think it is safe to say that is coming back as well.  I had a brilliant idea, and yes I’m biased, but I think there is a theme night coming based on one of my favorite movies.  I won’t give it away, but I’ll throw this out there.

When this pitch hits 88 mph...

When this pitch hits 88 miles per hour…

On October 30, we held our ninth annual Trick-or-Beat event.  We partner with 98.7 The Beat, a local radio station, and invite kids out to the ballpark to trick-or-treat in a safe and well-lit environment.  Over the last couple of years, I’ve gone as Captain America or David Beckham.  This year… a hockey player.  Or as the kids called me “hockey man.”

No Pens jersey... No problem.  A good vintage look I think.

No Pens jersey… No problem. A good vintage look I think.

Yes… that is just make-up and I did not fall while on the roller blades.  I’ll never have another bad day.

The Off-Season- Part One: Time to relax… right?

Once the season ends, life regains some normalcy for an employee of a Minor League Baseball team.  The Power were eliminated from playoff contention late in the second half, so that allows staff members to start planning their early off-season schedule.  Looking back on the season for a year-end review was certainly interesting.  Feel free to read the official recap here:

http://www.milb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20140911&content_id=94184934&fext=.jsp&vkey=news_t525&sid=t525

On September 16 and 17, I had my first opportunity of the year to go to PNC Park and watch the Pirates play.  Every season, the Minor League players in the Pirates system participate in the club’s Community Committment Program, which is a fancy title for community service.  On those two days in September, the big league club brings all the affiliates’ award winners (most community service time… usually) to Pittsburgh and honor those players.  The Pirates require all of their Minor League players to perform at least ten hours per season.  Our 2014 award winner was Kawika Emsley-Pai, who led all Power players with over 27 hours of service.  Each farm team also can send a front office representative.  I had the good fortune of representing the Power for the festivities.

PNC Park from the club level.

PNC Park from the club level.

Tuesday was just a simple trip to the ballpark to watch the Buccos knock of the Boston Red Sox 4-0.  On Wednesday, however, the day was packed.  It started with a school visit for all of Pittsburgh’s Major League roster, coaches, several front office staff members, Minor League award winners and affiliate liaisons.

Former Power outfielder Starling Marte during Q&A with the students.

Former Power outfielder Starling Marte during Q&A with the students (2009 alum).

The Pirates donated over $40,000 in school supplies to Banksville Elementary.  It was a very cool event to see and help with.

Big time now... Former Power outfielder Gregory Polanco (2012).

Big time now… Former Power outfielder Gregory Polanco (2012).

After the visit and after lunch (on my own at Atria’s along Federal Street), we got a stadium tour and the chance to watch batting practice on the field.  The best part of the tour was seeing the Pirates indoor batting cage.  I know that sounds strange, but here is the kicker.  The turf in the batting cage is actual turf from Three Rivers Stadium.  Apparently there is still some out there that is not for sale on eBay.

Pretty sure Bubby Brister was sacked a few times in this general vicinity.

Pretty sure Bubby Brister was sacked a few times in this general vicinity.

I took my parents with me to the game that night and took my mother onto the field with me.  She was blown away by the experience and was ready to brag that she shook Clint Hurdle’s hand when they met in the dugout.  The Pirates went on to shell the Sox 9-1.

Our 2014 award winner between Josh Bell and Jon Schwind (all three played for the Power in 2013).

Our 2014 award winner between Josh Bell and Jon Schwind (all three played for the Power in 2013).

My off-season has also included a trip to Florida for a wedding.  We went down to Destin early so we could have one day to relax.  I golfed and my wife went to the spa.  I played a second round on Friday as well.  Nice courses, fast greens and unforgiving rough.

FORE!  Because there was a slim chance it was a four on the scorecard.

FORE! Because there was a slim chance it was a four on the scorecard.

One other perk of the off-season: MLB playoff games.  In 2012, we took a staff field trip to Cincinnati for game five of the National League Division Series.  Last year, six of us went to PNC for the Wild Card game.  A fellow staff member and I drove to PNC for the Wild Card game this season.  Unfortunately the Buccos lost, but lessons will be learned I think (WIN THE DIVISION!).

Walking over the Clemente Bridge towards PNC Park prior to the 2014 NL Wild Card game.

Walking over the Clemente Bridge towards PNC Park prior to the 2014 NL Wild Card game.

Coming soon to a Minor League Kerouac blog near you… Planning for 2015 and what you can expect in year 11 of the West Virginia Power franchise.

If you like relaxing and that sort of thing...

If you like relaxing and that sort of thing…

I’ll never have another bad day.

Cue the Boys II Men…

Alright…  It is not quite the “End of the Road” just yet, but it might as well be.  The West Virginia Power season has exactly 13 games left as I write this offering.  Our first road trip this month was to Asheville, which is a phenomenal foodie city on the rise.  I opted to send my summer intern on the trip.  There are a few great options within a short walk of the hotel in Asheville: Hickory Tavern, Neo Burrito and Brixx Pizza to name a few.  If I sent him to Lexington, the only option is a house made out of butter and grease and waffles.  So he got Asheville…  and wasted it on cheap pizza and roast beef sandwiches.

Lexington is just a short trek from Charleston, so I borrowed my wife’s Subaru (37 mpg as opposed to my Toyota’s robust 22-ish) and took off for the “Horse Capital of the World.”  Along the way, I stopped for lunch near the Barboursville Mall.

Can't resist this place.

Can’t resist this place.

I’m still going low-carb, so no burrito for me.  I went for a salad with carnitas and verde salsa.  This should almost make up for the time, about a decade ago, when a friend and I drove 90 minutes to get Chipotle, each had a burrito there and then spent $80 on more burritos to take home.  That is no joke…  We really did that.

From there, it was on to UK-land.  The Power and Legends played a four-game series at Whitaker Bank Ballpark and split.  The Legends took game one, limiting the Power to just two hits.  West Virginia saved the offense for games two and three, pounding out 15 and 18 hits and scoring a collective 22 runs between Friday and Saturday’s wins.  Lexington won the finale 8-1.

Willie’s Locally Known has been one of my favorite spots to eat all season, but with one more three game trip here later this month, I did not visit this time through.  Instead, I found a Greek place on Friday for lunch called the Athenian Grill.  This is a top ten restaurant according to TripAdvisor.  

Eat there... if you can find it.

Eat there… if you can find it.

I opted for the meatballs in marinara with a Greek Salad.  Keone De Renne, our hitting coach, went along for the ride.  He said he might not eat since he had Waffle House two hours earlier.  I almost didn’t notice that he finished his gyro long before I was done eating.  This is a hole-in-the-wall-if-you-blink-you’ll-drive-right-past-it kind of place, but well worth finding.  Finding the Athenian Grill online is easier than finding the actual restaurant.

On Saturday, with all of my work taken care of after lunch Friday, I had time to tour and relax.  I toured the Alltech Lexington Brewing Company.  Alltech sounds like the kind of place that makes beer and spirits, right?  The chemical company works primarily with yeast and animal feed, animal supplements and animal health products.  It was the yeast that lead to brewing.  They would showcase their yeast by using it to make beer at conventions and trade shows.  And so Lexington Brewing Company was born.

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How beer is made...

How beer is made…

The brewery is only 14 years old, but offers six craft brews that have drawn a cult following.  Three of their beers are aged in old bourbon barrels.  The barrels are stored in a large freezer and the wood shrinks, thus releasing bourbon that seeped into the oak.  LBC makes a bourbon ale, a coffee stout, and, seasonally, a pumpkin barrel ale (plus three other non-barreled brews).  Find out more about Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale and LBC.

Craft brews selections from Lexington Brewing and Distillery.

Craft brews selections from Lexington Brewing and Distillery.

For $7, you could take an hour long tour and sample four of their ten products.  In addition to the beer, they have a distillery in the plant that creates four spirits: a whiskey, a bourbon, a rye whiskey and a coffee/ bourbon liquor.  I sampled two beers and three spirits (a fellow guest was getting a little too Harry Caray along the tour).

Wheel. Of. Bourbon.

Wheel. Of. Bourbon.

How spirits are made...

How spirits are made…

Each of their four brands of spirits go through the distilling process.

Each of their four brands of spirits go through the distilling process.

Pretty fancy digs for a booze factory.

Pretty fancy digs for shine making…  Wait.  This kind is legal.

After the brewery tour, I headed over to Red State BBQ.  This is the top restaurant on TripAdvisor.  It was very good, but Willie’s has still not been beaten.  The short story behind the name is that when the proprietor was watching election returns, he quipped to a friend that all the best barbecue comes from “red” states.

I vote delicious.

I vote delicious.

Five different sauces were available, I indeed sampled small amount of each with my low-carb lunch: brisket, pulled pork and green beans (ordered cole slaw but didn’t want to waste room actually eating it).  I swear I did not inhale the BBQ at RedState.

On Sunday before the last game of the series, I made sure to stop by one of my Lexington favorites.  

We meet again.

The Windy Corner Market is just five miles from the hotel… out in horse country.

What I really wanted was to go back to the brewery and get another one of their Bluegrass Sundowns.  The coffee liquor is mixed with hot water and heavy cream to make an Irish Coffee… minus real brewed coffee in the drink itself.  But with a game that Sunday afternoon, I didn’t want to sound like this guy:

The ZOOperStars Harry Canary at Appalachian Power Park.  And yes... he "sings."

The ZOOperStars Harry Canary at Appalachian Power Park. And yes… he “sings.”

I’ll never have another bad day.

Back on the wagon… Or is it off the wagon?

Baseball season is a tough time for a broadcaster to stay healthy (or get healthy).  I learned during my first couple seasons in the industry that a person can gain 10 to 15 pounds very easily by not watching what they eat and not exercising.  Very easily…

Pecan pie from Troy's in Rome, GA... more to come.

Pecan pie from Troy’s in Rome, GA… more to come.

Once Lebron James said he went carb-free and the pictures surfaced on Twitter, I vowed that I would go carb-free.  And then I looked at what that cut from my diet.  I changed my diet vow to low-carb and I’m now shooting for 50 g per day.  My plan was to try one day… and then try the next.  I’m on day six as I type this and still going!  

Most people, I think, would say I don’t need to lose weight.  I’m not really trying this to lose weight, though I wouldn’t complain if I shed 7-10 pounds of baby fat.  By baby fat, I mean all the delicacies of the 2014 Minor League Baseball season.  

Warning: This post is about to turn into a flashback episode of my summer in food…  All the food that didn’t make it into a Minor League Kerouac post at any point.

This blog started in 2013 to chronicle my travels.  Most guys (broadcasters) spend very little of their per diem on food and pocket the rest.  Players and coaches are different (as covered in this post earlier this season).  I chose to spend the money allotted to me to be well fed.  We travel to 13 cities that are very unique with a variety of culinary experiences.

Here are some of the dishes that didn’t make the cut… but I ate anyways!

Mahi bowl at Lakewood's Surf Taco Stand

Mahi bowl at Lakewood’s Surf Taco Stand

One of my favorites and I wrote about it last summer.  I actually skip the free press box food and eat this twice per trip.

Gyro plate from Sarah's Kabob Shop.

Gyro plate from Sarah’s Kabob Shop.

While in Greensboro, a Power staff member was in town shadowing the Hoppers staff for a day.  He had a car and asked where I wanted to go.  I picked Sarah’s Kabob Shop… TripAdvisor’s number one restaurant in the area.  Sarah’s Kebob Shop’s website

Root Beer sauced brisket at EVO Public House

Root Beer sauced brisket at EVO Public House

I tried a few places while in Delmarva.  It was during the World Cup, so priorities were good food and multiple televisions.   The brisket actually shut my jaw down for a few hours (I suffer from TMJ).  After a chat with ESPN.com’s Keith Law, he suggested I go another route at EVO.  A recipe of their custom ground beef, house-cured duck confit, and gruyere cheese with onion jam and a rosemary garlic aioli… and sweet potato fries.

Duck confit-topped burger at WVO

Duck confit-topped burger at WVO

He was absolutely right.  It was like Top-Chef-meets-the-best-burger-I-may-ever-eat.  More on EVO Public House

Rome had a few entries.  I’ve already extolled the virtues of Harvest Moon Cafe and Jamwich.  At the ballpark though, they have two notable “delights”. 

Rome's famous BBQ sundae.

Rome’s famous BBQ sundae.

They also have a food truck outside with Philly cheese steak or chicken flatbreads. 

Available with homemade chips and gooey cheese.

Available with homemade chips and gooey cheese.  Yes please.

While in Rome, their broadcaster was kind enough to help me continue my best BBQ pursuit and took me to Troy’s (the best barbecue in the city I hear).

photo 3 (2)

My plate consists of pulled pork BBQ, green beans, fried okra and a cornbread muffin.  It was very good, but still doesn’t knock off Willie’s Almost famous in Lexington.  With only Lexington left on the road this season, Willie’s has claimed the crown.

I closed the meal at Troy’s with some pecan pie.  Pecawn?  Pecaaan?  Doesn’t matter.  It’s gawn… gone.

Shrimp and Grits from First Watch in our home city.

Shrimp and Grits from First Watch in our home city.

Even when I’m home, I still over-indulge.  Time to get back on the wagon…  or off it.  I’m registered for a half-marathon in February… and maybe a few 5K’s along the way.  Time to get in shape.

Maybe one last treat though?  From a great deli in Lakewood perhaps?

That there is a cheesecake canoli.

That there is a cheesecake canoli.

I’ll never have another bad day.

Amore in Rome…

Amore is the Italian translation of the word “love.”  Or love is the English word for amore…  Something like that.

(Author’s note- the names of the innocent have been changed, but not by much.)

While in Rome (Georgia… the South Atlantic League does not actually travel across any oceans despite sounding more worldly), I did my best to have some fun and play matchmaker.  Mostly just to have some fun and entertain myself.  The broadcast booths at State Mutual Stadium are the baseball equivalent of a pet shop.  Small spaces enclosed in glass with a window to look out.  To my left beyond a sliding glass door is another broadcaster looking for a big league team to take him home.  To his left is the suite level, and this is where our story begins.

For the purposes of our story, the Rome broadcaster’s name will be changed to “Ken” and the lady-friend on the other side of this story will be called “Ken’s new girlfriend.”

A gaggle of attractive young women sat in the suite next to his broadcast booth, so I thought I would have some fun.  Since I am spoken for (I love my wife), I chose to use a half-inning break to help “Ken” find his soul mate and wrote this down on my game notes.

Smooth.

Smooth.

“Ken’s new girlfriend” shook her head at first and then acquiesced.  The next page of my notes already had the number written down, so I turned the page and she put the number in her phone. They began texting… mostly because she needed to borrow a cell phone charger.  Now… this group of women also had some men with them.  And each gender provided “Ken” with some gifts.  The girls gave him flowers stolen from their suite while the guys wanted to make sure “Ken” knew his place…  and tried to put him there with these “friendship Cokes.”

Where are the romance Cokes? Why is that restricted to heart-shaped chalk candy?

Where are the romance Cokes? Why is that restricted to heart-shaped chalk candy?

We don’t have an end to this story, but once I am a best man at a wedding in Rome, GA, I will be sure to fill you in on the remainder of this incredible romance started by yours truly.

While in town, I sampled a few great local restaurants.  While the Power were in Hickory the series prior, I went to Chipotle twice.  Not gourmet, mind you, but always awesome nonetheless.  In Rome, I first went to Harvest Moon Cafe.  They greet you with a clear mandate:

Message received... except I was alone and had 3G.

Message received… except I was alone and had 3G.

Inside the Moon.

Inside the Moon.

One of their specialties is the shrimp and grits and who am I to refuse that.

With a side of sweet potato souffle.

With a side of sweet potato souffle.

It was a very good dish and the inclusion of bacon was an excellent choice for flavor.  The grits were slightly more soupy that I prefer, but it was still very well worth the selection.  Find out more on this cool cafe with a top notch craft brew selection on the internet: Harvest Moon Cafe

Jamwich would be perfect on Charleston's Est End.

Jamwich would be perfect on Charleston’s Est End.

On Monday, I went to Jamwich; a creative sandwich shop with an eclectic menu that puts jam (shocker) on their fare.  I took the manager’s advice and tried the sandwich that put them on the map.  The Orange Turkey has peppercorn turkey, thick-cut pork bacon, smoked gouda, bib lettuce and cranberry-orange jam.

Who knew jam and lunch meat played so well together?  Jamwich did.

Who knew jam and lunch meat played so well together? Jamwich did.

Get Jamwiched!

I will now be putting jam on everything.  And I’ll never have another bad day.

 

Time to make the donuts…

Some days, Minor League Baseball really does feel like this classic 1980’s commercial…

Life in Minor League Baseball- 1983 Dunkin’ Donuts version

The day-to-day life can be a grind (you know… like life everywhere else!).  There are some days though, like July 19, that can be exhilarating.  It was Wrestling Night and our rescheduled Organ Donation Night.  It always seems to rain when we do an Organ Donation Night (or Faith and Family Night for that matter).  Plenty of credit needs to go to CAMC for consistently sponsoring Organ Donation Night, even though it ALWAYS rains when we try to do it.  Saturday’s start was no different than any other attempt.

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How Saturday started? Calls began at 10 am about the status of a game we hoped to play at 7.

Wrestling Night, on the other hand, is an occasional promotion we do in West Virginia.  Jerry “The King” Lawler made an appearance a few years back to decent results, so we planned to bring Wrestling Night back. When working on appearances, you go through handlers or talent agents.  That is the typical course of action. Getting WWE Hall-of-Famer Mick Foley was not handled in the typical fashion.  I talked with a promoter for an hour in December and got nowhere.  The promoter pushed a few fan favorites, but it wasn’t the right one to move the needle.  We wanted Mick.  While on the phone with the promoter, I was texting with Gabe Sinicropi in Williamsport.  The Crosscutters had a Foley appearance a few years back and Gabe gave me Mick’s number.  Not the agent… not a handler.  His actual cell number.  After a few texts and a contracted agreement with Mrs. Foley’s little boy’s comedy representative, we were all set.

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Honorary Power manager Mick Foley- Have a nice day!

And Mick crushed it.  Fans were lined up around the corner to get in like it was WVU v. Oklahoma on the football field.  The 49-year-old doesn’t move as well as he used to, but was game for everything.  A ceremonial first pitch.  A karaoke battle against Ben Hill from Ben’s Biz Blog (Read Ben’s work here). Leading the seventh inning stretch.  And signing every single autograph that people wanted signed… even the guy who works at Kroger who likes like a mirrored image of Cactus Jack himself.

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Which one is the bigger fan of Dude Love?

It turned out to be a great night with an announced crowd of 4,455.  Apparently, the Toastman also had a good night.  No burns from this incident:

photo 4

Burn motor, scooter. Burn! (Friends of the Toast know that that line makes sense).

I’ll never have another bad day. photo 2 (1)

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