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Ben's Biz: Weird memories from ballpark road trips

A collection of the most bizzare instances over 13 seasons of travel
Nothing but the tooth: Weird costumes usually result in weird Minor League ballpark memories.
April 26, 2024

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. Last month, a newsletter reader named Karen emailed the following question: “What is the most

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.

Last month, a newsletter reader named Karen emailed the following question: “What is the most bizarre thing you have experienced at a Minor League game?”

Great question, Karen. Thank you. Over 13 seasons of travel, encompassing over 300 visits to 186 Minor League ballparks, I have seen (and been a participant in) a lot of bizarre happenings. So many that I couldn’t possibly pick just one moment to stand out above the rest.

What follows is a brief compendium of strange things I’ve seen at the ballpark, presented in chronological order. There is so much more where this came from -- the below examples are no more recent than 2011 -- and I hope and expect that there will be more to come. My next ballpark road trip kicks off on May 2.

Postgame Laaser Light Show (Altoona Curve; Aug. 2, 2007)
The man in the above photo, taken during a rainy evening at Richmond’s The Diamond in 2015, is former Minor League Baseball (and Virginia Tech) broadcaster Jon Laaser. I had first crossed paths with Laaser eight years previously, when I visited Altoona to witness the Curve’s annual Awful Night promotion (my first ballpark road trip ever). The intentionally execrable evening culminated in what was advertised to fans over the PA as a “Postgame Laaser Light Show.” But note the spelling -- this show was simply Curve broadcaster Laaser, dressed in a body suit, dancing on the field while twirling glow sticks. I do not have any photos from this evening, and the video that was embedded within my recap has long since disintegrated into digital dust. But, believe me, it happened.

Postgame Sword Swallower (Huntsville Stars; May 15, 2009)
When the 2009 season began, I was still employed on a part-time basis and not yet able to realize my ballpark road trip goals. I was itching to get out there, though, and recruited two friends of mine to travel to Alabama so that we could participate in the Huntsville Stars’ World Record attempt in the category of “Longest Wiffle Ball Game of All Time.” The game was scheduled to begin following the conclusion of a Friday game and then last until 6 p.m. Sunday, but rain put the kibosh on all that.

However! Stars general manager Buck Rogers had booked sword swallower Dan Meyers for the occasion, and he performed on the field following the rainout to a small crowd of front office staffers and hangers-on. Standing on the outfield grass and watching a Minor League GM pull a sword out of a man’s mouth with a bullwhip was maybe the most surreal thing I ever witnessed at a ballpark. I didn’t dream it, either. The videos are still on YouTube.

Mascot Camp “Performance” (Harrisburg Senators; July 17, 2010)
2010 was my first season as a full-time Minor League Baseball writer, and I was eager to expand my horizons. To that end, I attended a three-day mascot camp in Annville, Pa., that culminated in a performance at a Harrisburg Senators game. I transformed into a hirsute fellow who, for reasons that I cannot fully recall, was named Giorgio the Bloggerman. The whole thing was a blur, the camp run a bit haphazardly, and I remember being at the ballpark with no real idea of what I was supposed to be doing. One of our bits involved us on the field with that night’s special guest, legendary wrestler Sgt. Slaughter.

After what seemed to be an interminable amount of time sweating it out while standing in a tunnel and being glared at intimidatingly by Sgt. Slaughter, our moment in the spotlight arrived. It was mascot basic training, and he ordered the ramshackle coterie of mascots before him to do pushups. I was just trying to keep my head on straight, literally.

Tooth Celebrity (Inland Empire 66ers; May 18, 2011)
My first trip to see the San Bernardino-based Inland Empire 66ers was imbued with an anarchic spirit from the jump. My time at the ballpark began at a 66ers team meeting held outside the ballpark, in which bats and other equipment were burned in a trash can as a means to exorcise offensive demons. From there it was a whirlwind, culminating with my appearance in an on-field “Molar Race” sponsored by a local dentist. I won that race, but what I remember most is signing autographs for kids on the berm before the race began. I didn’t know if I -- a racing molar -- had a name, so I just scrawled “Tooth” on a variety of hats, baseballs and t-shirts. I hope those kids held on to those items, because they’re surely worth some serious money these days.

Gorilla Goes Ape (Lake Elsinore Storm; May 19, 2011)
The anarchic California League vibes stayed with me as I traveled from San Bernardino to Lake Elsinore, home of the Storm. At the time the team had a menagerie of bizarre ballpark characters, highlighted by the easily angered Grounds Crew Gorilla. As I wrote in my Ben’s Biz Blog post:

[T]he Gorilla was upstaged in a dance contest by a younger, more nimble female gorilla. This enraged him, so he darted into the visiting dugout and then up the hilly berm area. At the top of the hill he picked up a portion of the fence separating the berm from the concourse and threw it with all his might.

The picture I took in the aftermath of this rage-fueled rampage is lousy -- a Sony Webbie was my documentation tool at the time -- but nonetheless it illustrates what occurred. This was Minor League Baseball at its most deeply strange, and therefore Minor League Baseball at its best.

Geez, I could go on and on. I should write a book. Publishers, please email me six-figure advance offers here: [email protected]. Anyone else: Email me and ask me a question, whatever’s on your mind. It may lead to a newsletter feature such as this!


Thank you once again for reading all the way to the end. I appreciate you. Get in touch any time.

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