I love to write about first impressions, how a place or a person invites me to feel, it is how I write about baseball. I observe and experience things with a critical eye. This first impression is important since, consciously or subconsciously, this is how the majority of people judge; be it another person, a place, or a thing.
I am very critical of myself when I write, I take a lot of time editing my work, I want to make sure my words engage and entertain, my message understood. I want to provoke a thought, or for the readers to remember an experience. I am told I write well (by my mom and girlfriend but that’s besides the point). It takes time and effort and if I am going to do it, I will do it to the best of my ability.
I need to write/talk about “baseball hospitality”. Yes, hospitality, which I define as a friendly and generous reception, fan engagement and ownership, and an entertaining game. This is what I am looking for when I come to a ball game. To me this is a simple formula to be successful and profitable at all levels of baseball.
Many teams miss the mark, I don’t understand why, baseball is still the national pastime, there are more people playing and watching the game than in its history.
(If you don’t believe me look at all the kids in tee-ball, Little League, recreation leagues, the select leagues, American Legion, High School, college, college summer ball, the MLB partner leagues, the minor league, the MLB and around the world in Japan, the Caribbean, and Korea.)
Hospitality is simple, greet your fans with a smile, be courteous and generous with your time, make it easy to get beer and bratwurst, have a fun mascot and play area for the kids, engage the fans during and between innings. Keep the park clean and organized, it is these details which keep the fans coming back.
Fans love identifying with their team, this is the ownership aspect, they want the jerseys, hats, and knick-knacks along with the creative name and goofy mascot. At the lower levels of baseball it is not always about the game being played.
The MLB is about the players and wins, they have polished and perfected their fan experience, I enjoy going to MLB games. However, I absolutely love going to a college summer wood bat league where I don’t know any of the players, the stadium is old (but clean), interns are directing it all, hot dogs and burgers are fresh off the grill, and the beer local. Nostalgia comes to mind.
Successful teams subscribe to this belief, it is about marketing and having a critical eye on hospitality, if the team is also good that is a bonus, players will come and go.
The frustration and disappointment I felt with the Joliet Slammers was intense, I wanted to find the ownership to let them know; I wasn’t upset with the baseball team, they played well but lost 2-1 to the Washington Wild Things. It was the fan experience that was terrible, there is no other word for it.
As I drove the two hours to Joliet, Illinois from Milwaukee on Friday night, I started thinking about what I was going to write about, I hit upon how teams at all levels of baseball need to rebrand themselves every 5-10 years.
At the MLB level they are constantly doing themed uniforms; at the lower levels they utilize creative team names, uniforms and promotions. Some stalwarts such as the Yankees and Dodgers have no need to do a brand refresh since their fan bases are expansive and would be pissed, but they have gotten into doing theme uniforms, this is a boon for teams.
I was excited as I started thinking about Joliet, they call themselves the Slammers, a play on the city’s history and the Joliet Correctional Center which was located in the city from 1858 until 2002, and the close proximity of Stateville Correctional Center.
I admit, I am an intense person by nature and have always needed to take a moment before speaking, I have taken that moment and I am still passionate with my response regarding Joliet.
I had a great fan experience on Tuesday night in Kenosha with the Kingfish of the NWL, which is a college summer wood bat league. They played in an old stadium, the field wasn’t perfect, the players unknowns, but the Kingfish embraced what they had, they entertained with games and activities for the kids, maintained fan engagement between innings and had the obligatory dirty and undersized mascot. And for the most part it was run by college interns trying to gain experience. It wasn’t polished or sterile but if you asked the kids and their parents, they will say it was entertaining.
Joliet plays in the Frontier League, a professional independent baseball league with teams in the Northeast and Midwest, United States and a couple of teams in Canada, the league is a MLB partner. This is a step up from the Northwoods League the Kingfish play in or so I thought.
With the Kenosha experience fresh in my mind and the hundreds of games I have attended, I had an expectation as I arrived in Joliet after fighting traffic, I didn’t think I would have a hard time finding parking, but all the lots were full, a very good sign!
There were lines to get in, as I picked up my Media Credentials at the ticket window, I got a sense things were disorganized, but I brushed it off as I walked up to the press area and looked out and saw the place was hopping.
I quickly set up my equipment since the game had already started, I put my recording device outside by a camera guy, I asked if it was okay, he was young like an intern, shrugged and said, “I think so”. I grabbed my camera rig to walk the stadium, but I noticed it was quiet in the press area, the PA announcer couldn’t be heard, and for that matter I couldn’t hear the crowd.
I first walked by the luxury boxes, they seemed quiet, then a concession area which seemed a little chaotic, being run by interns. I went down a stairway to the main concourse where most of the fans were, it was packed, I estimate 4000-4500 fans! What I found odd was the long lines, lots of kids, but it seemed really quiet to me for a ball game. That is when it hit me, the Slammers were not utilizing the beautiful scoreboard to engage the fans.
As I continued to walk towards the left field area, I noticed there was nothing for the kids to do; normally you would see games or a blow up slide and the mascot would be holding court. Absolutely, nothing! I walked the outfield and there was a handful of kids playing catch.
When I got to the right field area, I got a sense that it was a party deck at one time but on this night it seemed to be off limits and empty besides some young girls who were dressed up and their mothers taking pictures over looking the ball field which I found odd.
I was starting to question everything as I continued my walk, I popped into the team store, which seemed empty, there was shirts, hats and jerseys but it didn’t have all the knick knacks, I had another realization, hardly anyone had team jerseys or hats on besides the help and interns.
With the long lines for concessions I didn’t smell any hot dogs or burgers on the grill, no fresh popped popcorn, I wasn’t sure if soft serve ice cream was being served. So much confusion. This was a great little stadium, a little heavy on the 1990s decor but it had good sight lines.
I returned to the press area, which was still very quiet, two young guys were sitting there, I heard one say to the other that a friend or a cousin got called up to the NY Mets, I chirped in. I was just at the NY Mets game the week before, he showed me the kids name on the roster I had.
These two were interns, motivated college kids, I asked them what they did, they said something to the effect of taking tickets, I asked about the crowd. They said it was packed, Friday Night Fireworks, they thought.
I got up to get a burger and some popcorn, the concession area was still a little chaotic, I asked for a burger, it was terrible, it was like prison food, which made sense I guess, no fresh popcorn, only pre-popped.
I continued to talk with the interns, they were unpaid but got to come to the games for free. Things started making sense, I thought about the little girls and their moms on the party deck that were dressed up, I asked the interns, they said it was “Princess Night”. I was shocked, I had no idea!
This is when my frustration started, you have a “Princess Night” and no where for the fans to take pictures for social media? No fun “trellis of flowers” where the princesses’ could stand which overlooked the playing field to get their picture taken so they can post on Instagram!
Besides being a huge disappointment to the young fans that got dressed up; what a missed opportunity for the team, the fans posting at the game would draw future fans on other “Princess Nights”. My girlfriend asked if they gave little bats that the princess could use as wands…. What a great idea!
The Slammers have a great name, I thought they were doing a rebrand, since the team store didn’t have much merchandise, I asked an usher, he said they have had the name for 13 years. The more questions I asked the more frustration.
I don’t know the owner but I get the feeling he is a “baseball guy” that wanted to own a team. I looked around the press box and saw that it was people in their 30s on up that were keeping book, doing the public address, calling the game on the radio, etc… all good “baseball” people. I “think” there were interns doing the TV or internet broadcast.
A “baseball guy” is a person that is about the team and the product on the field, I love baseball, however at this level it is about entertaining the fans, only the “baseball” people care about the wins and losses, the fans care about the game at hand since the players change so frequently.
Fans want the merchandise, the unique name, the goofy games between innings, the scoreboard operator engaging them with “make noise”. The kids want the baseballs, the bouncy house and slide, pictures with the mascot.
With all the interns that want to learn and gain experience the Slammers need to engage them more, they have the ideas and motivation, let them take over the scoreboard so fans can be on it, the entertainment between innings, the theme nights, etc…. Interns want to learn and try different things, not just take the tickets.
Another thing, baseball is about marketing, the Slammers need a refresh, time to change the name to “Jail Birds” like your mascot; the one thing I really liked! Make the team uniforms prison guards or inmates, be the “bad boys of baseball”. Do an update to the stadium, post pictures of famous or notorious prisoners. Do something, your fans want an identity. I am sure the Slammers have done these things in the past, these aren’t original thoughts…
Baseball at this level is about the entertainment, you need to spend money to make money. You need new merchandise from season to season, time to trust in the young college kids to get you to the next level, reach out to the Kenosha Kingfish or ask your interns.
Baseball is a grind for all involved, a fun grind, so many little things you can do to create a great fan experience, if you rest on your laurels you will fail, Joliet Slammers you are failing your fans, time to change!
The Baseball Sentinel is about the fan experience, the sights, sounds, and the smells of being at a ball game, the entertainment doesn’t have to be polished it just needs to be engaging. This is my perspective regarding the Joliet Slammers, I am sure others feel differently, I would love to hear your baseball experiences.
I normally post the video I shot as I wander around the park along with audio on the Ballpark Confidential Podcast, unfortunately I didn’t have the microphone plugged in all the way on my recorder so I didn’t record anything, the video I am choosing not to put in the Sightseeing link.
I opened the door to the press box that sat on top of the stands, the hot and humid room smelled of body order, there were nine mid 20 somethings that looked over. No one asked me who I was or what I was doing. I took possession of the chair by the door, it was the only spot left, I set up my equipment, I wasn’t going to be able to write.
I was nervous for some reason, I was here for the guys in the press box, record them as they dictated the show that was happening on the field and in the stands. The Kingfish announcer was at one end and the Kalamazoo radio play by play guy on the other and directly in front of me.
The public address guy was in the middle next to the official scorer, the PA guy might be early to mid 30s, he had an ease about him; he has done this before, this was the 2nd game of the season but this wasn’t his 2nd game.
There was a camera guy between the PA and Kingfish announcer, he looked at me a few times, I was waiting for him to ask me who I was, for whatever reason he didn’t, the guy between the official scorer and the Kalamazoo announcer was working the scoreboard, he seemed nervous, like it was his 2nd game.
There were 3 guys directly to my left, the guy closest was producing the TV or Internet broadcast, he was excitable he kept calling out the cameras and complimenting the operators, he was easy to like, he kept spitting seeds. The guy next to him was assisting, the 3rd, I never figured out what he was doing on his computer.
One guy kept coming into the booth to tell the announcer and scoreboard operator what was going to happen between innings, he also shook my hand but never told me who he was, he brought burgers and hot dogs for everyone late in the game, I didn’t take one, these boys needed their free meal.
During the 2nd inning I went around the ballpark and recorded all the sights and sounds, it was a perfect night for baseball, mid 80s, slight breeze, excitable crowd of 3500, half being kids. The smell of the press box got me again when I walked back in, I tripped a little from the carpet that was tore up. I took a couple of pictures, I was smiling the entire game.
I heard the Kingfish play by play guy tell his audience that like the players, all the guys in booth were trying to get to the next level. I wanted to tell him to soak this in, this is baseball, the grind of the day to day, the excitement of the new season, Kenosha is special, it has moxy, it isn’t sterile.
I kept listening to the Growlers announcer in front of me, I liked his voice and how he announced the game, I couldn’t see the batters box, when the pitcher released the ball I waited for the crack of the bat when I didn’t hear anything I tuned in to the announcers. They were young Vin Scully’s I thought, serious unlike Uecker.
When the game ended, I packed up my gear, the Growlers announcer shook my hand and asked who I was, I told him I was the Baseball Buddha, he asked if I was on Twitter, he followed me, I followed him, I believe he will go far, this is the baseball I love. I enjoy being in the MLB press box but I forget what it took to get there, the guys in the Kingfish box reminded me, soak it all in, the season goes fast, seasons go fast.
Please follow my podcast Ballpark Confidential and subscribe to my YouTube channel to hear more of the press box and see the great show the Kenosha Kingfish put on, these will be available in a couple of weeks, subscribe to the Baseball Buddha Newsletter, it should have popped up. Check out the Baseball Buddha T-Shirts and support SwingJuice!
It was a beautiful night in Milwaukee for a game, I was able to use my new camera stabilizer and it helped! It took me awhile to figure it out, you will see as the video progresses.
I am also learning that not all ballparks will let me use the camera and stabilizer, the following week I went to a Yankee game and had to use my iPhone to record, that will be next weeks video, enjoy American Family Field home of the Milwaukee Brewers.
It was a beautiful night in Baltimore for a game, Aaron Judge and the Yankees came into the Camden Yards and put on a show, the score was close with the Yankees winning 5-4. I walked Oriole Park and checked out all the sight lines, it is beautiful and celebrating being open 30 years.
After this game I purchased a camera stabilizer, so hopefully coming videos will be better. Please subscribe to the channel, I promise you that I will get better as I continue to learn more.
I spent Sunday afternoon May 5th, 2022 wandering around Nationals Park, it was a beautiful day, Nationals vs the Astros. Houston crushed the Nationals 8-0.
Please support the channel by hitting the Subscribe button, I am working on improving the stability of the videos, I recently purchased a camera stabilizer, so that should help with upcoming videos. Check out the website and the Baseball Buddha Shop at https://www.baseballbuddha.com/shop.
You have been seeing advertising on my blog posts, social media, and in the descriptions of videos, etc… I am doing all these things for a reason and that is to generate revenue, the links to different products on Amazon, Lids, SwingJuice, etc… are programs I signed up to do, I get a small commission if you click on the link and purchase a product.
Additional, I have been upgrading my website and social media platforms the last couple of month. I have learned to create simple movies that I am sharing on my YouTube channel (Subscribe Here), I also created a podcast called Ballpark Confidential (Follow Here), I have been creating T-Shirts that I am selling on the website (Click Here).
With a YouTube channel you need to get a minimumn of 1000 Subscribers who consistiently watch 4000 channel hours a month, that is why it is imperative to subscribe to the channel and watch some of the content, will I ever get to 1000 subscribers? I don’t know, I just like the challenge of it, keeps me motivated to produce better content, once I reach those goals, I will be able to montize. It normally takes 2-3 years before you get to that point, I produce content on nights and weekends, I find it new and exciting while I am learning.
I have my podcast on all the podcast platforms, I need to get people to follow and listen, normally you need 50-100 followers before you can montize, so please follow me on one of the platforms and I promise my product will get better the more I learn.
I have always wanted to create T-Shirts, I am doing that on my website shop, I can make a few dollars per shirt, I have a girlfriend who is a fashion stylist, she has been sharing her opinion of the styles, again the more I learn the better they will be.
I will defenitely post when I make my first few dollars, it does take time and money to create content, I am enjoying it. Please click on the links you see if the product is of interest to you, I don’t get paid for clicks, I only get paid if you buy something, check out the T-Shirts and if you have any ideas or suggestions please utilize the comment box or section.
I visited Guarenteed Rate Field on May 1st, 2022 – White Sox vs Angels. I created this video to show the stadium, it is just me walking around the entire stadium amongst the crowd, it is for people who are baseball fans that haven’t been to a White Sox game, it will give a feel of what it is like to be at a game.
I will be doing these videos through out the year, mostly I want to learn how to edit video and learn the tricks to produce a decent film, this is quite lengthy, I recommend to just start watching, it was never intended to be watched from start to finish, skip through it, or just play it in the background. Guarenteed Rate Field is very unique and has some very cool sight lines, it is the oldest “new” park in Major League Baseball, opened in 1991.
Please share and subscribe to my YouTube channel, also go over to the Baseball Buddha Shop @ http://www.baseballbuddha.com/shop and check out our T-Shirts, we are designing different ones everyday. Thanks for your support!
Some might have noticed that I have been posting quite a bit on social media lately. I have decided to restart Baseball Buddha, I have been working the last 8 years for a company, I have given it my all, I enjoy what I do but I realized I need to turn my brain off from work on occasion.
I want to lay out my goals for this restart and what social media platforms I am going to utilize. A lot has changed in the last eight years, some things I have kept up with and some I haven’t, but one thing hasn’t changed and that is my passion for the fan experience of baseball. I love the game, I love the teams I follow but I really enjoy exploring the different experiences around the game.
I have a YouTube channel I now understand how to use, I have some things on the channel from 8 years ago which I have left on it, I still have my Instagram and Twitter accounts, I have created a podcast account on Spotify that also connects to other podcasting platforms. I continue to have my website, I have improved the user experience.
I have goals I want to meet, the biggest thing is to have an outlet for my creativity, I love to write blog posts, I like constructing stories however I believe people have moved on from blogs so I want to learn how to create videos and recordings that people my age would enjoy. Thus I am learning movie making and audio editing.
Another goal is to keep what I learn in perspective, I am not looking to grow this as a business but only utilize it as a passion, as my brand and vision, I believe if people create their own thing and learn from their creative side the world becomes a better place. I do want to grow my following, especially with the over 50 crowd since it is the fastest growing segment and a lot of social media is geared to the under 50 crowd.
I will be doing simple things I find enjoyable, i.e. I started a podcast called Ballpark Confidential, all it is, is the sounds of the ballpark and game as I walk around, I find it relaxing to listen to, current podcast is of the game I attended at Dodger Stadium on Opening Weekend, this week on Friday it will be Wrigley Field and then Guaranteed Rate Field on May 13th, please find it on Spotify (Ballpark Confidential) and hit the follow button. I have some other ideas for the podcast but I wanted to start simple.
Please check out Baseball Buddha on YouTube, my current projects are like the podcasts but with the video footage and some other things I have learned as I create the videos, please subscribe to the channel, my goal is to get to 1000 subscribers in the next year.
I have always wanted to sell T-Shirts, I am able to design and sell my creations on my website, go to baseballbuddha.com/shop to check out the current designs, more will be added in the future so please check back, I also will be posting on Instagram and Twitter so please follow me on those sites.
I am going through my blog posts form 2014’s Baseball In America Tour, I have highlighted some of the best posts, if you enjoy short stories and baseball you might like them, I also am collecting all the links to the Newspaper, Radio, and TV interviews I did in 2014, I was surprised they are still on the internet and also by how many I did, a lot of them I didn’t even see, so I will be posting those as I come across them.
Again thanks for your support, I will try not to overwhelm you with a bunch of stuff, I enjoy talking about my baseball experiences, everyone likes to be known for something, mine is kinda of goofy, as I look back on 2014, I can definitely say now that it was a mid-life crisis, most people knew but I was adamant at the time it wasn’t…
I visited Wrigley Field on April 23rd, 2022 – Cubs versus Pirates. I created this video to show the stadium, it is just me walking around the entire stadium amongst the crowd, it is for people who are baseball fans that haven’t been to a Cubs game, it will give a feel of what it is like to be at a game.
I will be doing these videos through out the year, mostly I want to learn how to edit video and learn the tricks to produce a decent film, this is quite lengthy, I recommend to just start watching, it was never intended to be watched from start to finish, skip through it, or just play it in the background. Wrigley Field is very unique and has some very cool sight lines, it is the 2nd oldest park in Major League Baseball.
Please share and subscribe to my YouTube channel, also go over to the Baseball Buddha Shop and check out our T-Shirts, we are designing different ones everyday. Thanks for your support!
"Love the game of baseball and baseball will love you."