We have reached the sweet 16, and by that I mean this: Welcome to the 16th edition of the Ben’s Biz Beat Newsletter. I’m your host, Ben Hill, fresh off one ballpark road trip and soon to embark on another. There is much to look back on and much to look forward to. Let’s start with the latter option.
Next weekend I’m setting my internal GPS coordinates for Dyersville, Iowa, home of the inaugural MiLB at Field of Dreams Game. This mystical Midwest League contest will take place on Aug. 9, two days before the Cubs and the Reds play the MLB iteration of the event. Both of the Minor League teams involved are from Iowa, with the Quad Cities River Bandits hosting the Cedar Rapids Kernels.
In keeping with the nostalgia-soaked spirit of this cinematically inspired event, the teams will assume throwback identities. The River Bandits will play as the Davenport Blue Sox, with the Kernels suiting up as the Cedar Rapids Bunnies. The Blue Sox existed intermittently between 1913 and 1937, while the Bunnies called Cedar Rapids home from 1904-32.
While I’m usually a solo traveler, this trip will be a group effort. Kelsie Heneghan, Sam Dykstra and I are driving from New York City to Dyersville on Aug. 7-8, stopping at multiple baseball-related sites along the way. Stay tuned for plenty of material from what is sure to be a memorable Minor League Baseball event, and if you’re social media-inclined then please join us on our travels!
Twitter: @MiLB, @bensbiz, @kelsie_heneghan, @samdykstraMiLB
Instagram: @MiLB, @thebensbiz
In the meantime, get excited! Learn more about the MiLB at Field of Dreams Game and the teams involved here.
ROAD TRIP REVIEW: OKLAHOMA CITY, TULSA, WICHITA
I was on the road from July 26-31, visiting the Oklahoma City Dodgers, Tulsa Drillers and Wichita Wind Surge. Much more to come, as always, but for now please enjoy an overview of these three Minor League locales.
We’ll begin where the trip began: Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, home of the Oklahoma City Dodgers.
The last time I visited Oklahoma City, in 2012, the city’s Minor League team was a Houston Astros affiliate named the RedHawks. Since 2015 they’ve been a Los Angeles affiliate named, sensibly enough, the Dodgers. Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark is part of the city’s Bricktown Entertainment District, so named because many of the buildings located therein are repurposed brick warehouses. That just means there’s mortar love. (Editor’s note: I’ll allow it. Reluctantly.)
Ballpark Feature: The second-level Fidelity Bank Club has baseball stitch neon lighting and, perhaps more importantly, excellent air-conditioning. It was over 100 degrees on both days that I was in town.
Ballpark Character: Brix and Brooklyn, cattle dog siblings who serve as the team’s mascots. This picture was taken prior to this delightful duo joining me atop the dugout for a deeply felt and entirely on-key rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
Culinary Concoction: Dodger Dogs are iconic. This, specifically, is an Oklahoma Dodger Dog.
Did You Know? Flaming Lips Alley runs behind Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, a tribute to Oklahoma City’s best-known group of psychedelic art-pop weirdos.
OIL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL IN TULSA
My evening at the Tulsa Drillers’ ONEOK Field was more than OK. It was a full-to-bursting bonanza of activity. Highlights included throwing baseballs off the roof of a nearby building and getting pied in the face by mascot Hornsby at the conclusion of an on-field “blind limbo” contest.
For those keeping score at home: The Drillers are the Dodgers’ Double-A affiliate, located one rung below Oklahoma City on the organization’s Minor League ladder.
Ballpark Feature: This Jackie Robinson mural is painted on a building just beyond the left field concourse. There’s quite a story behind this mural; I wrote it.
Ballpark Character: Hornsby told a joke in my honor. I was honored.
Culinary Concoction: Please excuse this suboptimal photo, which hopefully still conveys the epic grandeur of the Drillers’ ultra-loaded “Street Fries.”
Did You Know? ONEOK Field is located in the heart of Tulsa’s Greenwood District, which rose to prominence in the early 20th century as America’s “Black Wall Street.” The neighborhood was decimated during the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, perhaps the single worst instance of race-related violence in American history. Greenwood Rising, a history center that honors the legacy of Black Wall Street, is located just down the street from the ballpark.
HOPELESSLY OBSCURE MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL TRIVIA QUESTION
We interrupt these road trip ruminations in order to pose the following query:
The Tulsa Drillers played their first season in 1977, after relocating from Lafayette, Louisiana. What was the name of the team when they played in Lafayette?
BE MY GUST: TWO NIGHTS WITH THE WICHITA WIND SURGE
Riverfront Stadium opened in 2021, serving as the home of the Double-A Texas League Wind Surge. This marked the first time that Wichita had a Minor League team since the Wranglers relocated to Springdale, Ark., following the 2007 season.
This visit represented a career milestone for me personally, as I have now made professional excursions to every active Minor League ballpark. Riverfront Stadium is the 186th stadium I have visited in my road trip career, which officially began in 2010 with a trip to Mobile’s Hank Aaron Stadium. But enough words about me. Here’s a picture of me instead.
Ballpark Character: Wind Surge corporate sales and services coordinator Jacob Hoch, the inspiration for a recent romance novel’s lead protagonist. Story forthcoming.
Ballpark Feature: The brand-new Wichita Baseball History Museum is located in a building on the outfield concourse. It features artifacts and interactive displays related to the NBC (National Baseball Congress), Negro Leagues and professional baseball.
Culinary Concoction: The Grand Slam Burger, stacked with four patties. In this analogy, each patty equals a base.
Did You Know? Wichita’s weirdest tourist attraction is a statue of a chained-up troll, located underneath a grate. This troll has been incorporated into the logo set for the Wind Surge’s “Turbo Tubs” alternate identity, which I attempted to explain in a previous edition of this newsletter.
QUESTIONS OF MINOR CONCERN
Last week’s question: What is your favorite Minor League ballpark dessert?
The Fort Myers Mighty Mussels soft serve in a mini-helmet. –--Jeff Lego
My favorite, and only, Minor League ballpark dessert is soft serve vanilla ice cream in a waffle cone. Straight, no chasers. Harbor Park, Norfolk Tides -- Floyd B.
Dr Pepper Park, home of the Frisco RoughRiders, used to serve the best pecan cobbler in their Founders Club! -- Joan Turano
This week’s question: Inspired by the upcoming MiLB at Field of Dreams Game, I ask you this:
Putting aside logistical concerns and limited only by your imagination, what would be the ideal location in which to watch a Minor League Baseball game?
Send your responses to firstname.lastname@example.org, and please note I really enjoy hearing from readers regarding these questions or really anything else related to the world of Minor League Baseball. I endeavor to answer every email I receive and appreciate your interest and engagement. Corresponding is fun!
HOPELESSLY OBSCURE MINOR LEAGUE TRIVIA ANSWER!
Lafayette’s Minor League team was also named the Drillers. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.