I've discussed the travels of Minor League Baseball business and promotions guru Ben Hill before. Earlier this season, Ben visited Bradenton and Tampa to visit the Marauders and Yankees, respectively. When he returned from his excursion, Ben wrote about his visits and I summarized them here and here.
Now it's time to summarize Ben's last Minor League stop in the Tampa Bay area, his visit to Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, home of the Dunedin Blue Jays.
(Note: Ben didn't get a chance to visit the Clearwater Threshers on this trip, but he did visit Bright House Field a few years ago.)
Like his posts on the Tampa Yankees and Bradenton Marauders, Ben's chronicles in Dunedin are divided into three parts, a trilogy of sorts, if you will. Three trilogies of Florida Minor League Baseball. Even better than Lord of the Rings.
Part one of Ben's Dunedin diary is entitled "An All-Access Pass in Dunedin". Ben begins by detailing the lack of attendance in Dunedin and the Florida State League and then talks about his fondness for smaller Minor League locales.
I was psyched to attend this game because I truly love these sort of environments, as teams operating on the margins of the industry are prone to be more creative with their promotions and, in general, a loose anything-goes sort of vibe prevails. Sparsely attended games within older stadiums in smaller markets are, strangely enough, when the ballpark atmosphere seems most alive to me. Eccentric characters are easier to find; connections are easier to make.
So, yeah: While it’s always great to visit shiny new ballparks with all the amenities — your Charlottes, your Nashvilles, your El Pasos — it is perhaps even greater to spend time in the lesser-known locales as well. I don’t just feel obligated to visit the likes of Bakersfield, Kannapolis, Beloit and Dunedin. I genuinely want to.
He then details Dunedin's very unique Universal Rain Check, which enables anyone with a ticket to a rained out game anywhere to redeem the ticket at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. In other words, if you buy a ticket to Tampa Yankees game (or anywhere else), and the game gets rained out, you can take the ticket to Florida Auto Exchange Stadium and watch a Dunedin Blue Jays game for no additional cost.
Ben's a fan of the policy, as am I.
Part two of Ben's Dunedin diary is entitled "Dealing in Dunedin". In this episode, Ben throws out the first pitch, talks promotions with Blue Jays Director of Marketing and Social Media Nate Kurant, competes in a trivia contest with a local Jays fan, and sees his first special guest: Ken Carson, President of the Florida State League and Dunedin resident.
The final and concluding episode of Ben's Dunedin adventure, entitled "Never Done Eating in Dunedin", is my personal favorite. Partly, nay, mostly because of its special guests.
When I heard Ben was coming to town, I made it a point to visit Dunedin to say hello. I met Ben a few years ago at the MLB Winter Meetings and corresponded with him few years before that via twitter. Ever since a website I used to write for, Bus Leagues Baseball, interviewed Ben to get his take on the charm of Minor League Baseball, we had become e-migos.
Visiting Florida Auto Exchange Stadium also gave me a chance to finally meet another legendary Minor League personality, former Birmingham Barons clubhouse attendant Jeff Perro, aka @MiLBClubbie on twitter.
Knowing Ben liked having guest eaters for his ballpark reviews, I volunteered. My efforts were well documented.
This post is getting quite meta, I will admit. I am writing about Ben writing about me. Although it does get worse, since Ben linked to my other site's blog post about my eating adventure, this post is actually me writing about Ben writing about me writing about me eating for Ben.
The Minor League life has a way of doing that.
Episode three marked the end of Ben's journey in the Tampa Bay area. He then went on to Daytona and other Parts Unknown to continue his chronicles.
As I have mentioned before, it is always interesting to read what people think of baseball in Tampa Bay. We have so much of it, sometimes I think we take it granted. Especially baseball played in the tucked in the tiny corners of Tampa Bay suburbia.