Dear Anderson Rathburn [General Manager; Burlington Sock Puppets]:
In your last missive to me, you inquired just what it would take for the Burlington Sock Puppets to ride with Bads85 for a season (I am loosely paraphrasing here). Well, the short answer is a case of Monster drinks, a large suitcase of various flavors of Bugles, and open road with a dive bar as the final destination. The long answer requires a little bit of detail.
For starters, I need an official title. The Otterbots have ruined “Ambassador”, so I was thinking I could be the official “Purveyor of Fan Pleasure”, which is not as dry as “Director of Promotions”. Along with the title should come business cards and an official Sock Puppet email address so I can reach out to community leaders and captains of industry to solicit support for our organization. Also, it is much easier to conduct acts of cyber espionage on other clubs with an official email address, and I can send my good buddy Allan Benavides [General Manager; Eugene Emeralds] reminders that will make him jealous that I brought my talents to Burlington.
What I also need from you, Anderson, is information. Appalachian League cities, despite their numerous charms, are not big tourist destinations, so information about these cities is hard to come by on the internet. I need to know what makes the city of Burlington tick. If I am able to form a bond with Sock Puppet fans. I am not talking Chamber of Commerce stuff. I am talking about the hopes, dreams, fears, and desperate power plays found in Burlington. While these are certainly similar to other MiLB towns, each MiLB community is unique, except for Rancho Cucamonga, California, home of the Quakes. It is just an outdoor mall.
I also need information like:
- Daily attendance figures.
- Tickets sold by zip code.
- Merchandise sold by zip code.
- Concessions menu.
- Beers on tap and beer special
- List of between inning promotions
- List of local golf courses, preferably private.
- Playlist of stadium music pre-game and in-game.
- Emergency exit routes in case I need to make a quick getaway when I visit.
Where are you and I going with all this? Allow me to tell the bus parable.
In 2013, after the San Jose Giants clinched the Northern Division Championship of the California League, the team was immediately awarded with a bus ride to Southern California to play either the Inland Empire 66ers or the Lancaster JetHawks, who were playing the deciding game of the Southern Division Championship. When the bus pulled out of the stadium parking lot, the Giants were not sure who their opponent would be as the the southern playoff teams were still playing as the Southern Championship game had gone to extra innings However, the bus driver knew to go south, and he would get the final destination via his radio, so through the night the Giants’ bus went into the San Joaquin Valley as the smell of rotting corpse of Tom Joad permeated the air.
Meanwhile, the 66ers and JetHawks kept playing. And playing. And playing. Eventually, the bus came to a fork in road the Sierra Pelona Mountains– one way was San Bernardino; the other was Lancaster. The bus was forced to pull over on the side of the road, idling until the 66ers would eventually win in fifteen innings after the clock stuck two in the morning. No one remembers it was Abel Baker for the 66ers who drove in Angel Rosa in the fifteenth that night, but some still picture that bus doing its Robert Frost imitation in the desert morning, wondering which way to go with miles to go before the team could sleep.
Most fans do not remember the bus story at all though either as the years have passed. And why would they? The minors are a fresh slate each year, players, coaches, stats, and records all pulled out to sea by the tide known as the passing of time. Memories in the minors usually do not last through Christmas. Still, the bus idling in the pines of Gorman on a September night is a damn near perfect snapshot of the minors. To the east, one destiny. To the south, another. But first we must wait for other paths to catch up. And sometimes, people get off the bus and walk towards the future — or run from the law.
However, most of us remain on the bus, waiting because eventually that bus is going to point towards MAGIC. What form that magic will appear is always different. However, sometimes, something mystical brings the night together. The crowd feels it. The players feel it. The employees feel it, even the acne faced kid boiling hot dogs in a dungeon known as a MiLB concession prep room. Even though the magic is fleeting, it endures in memories. It is the minor league front offices that facilitate this magic occurring. Oh, they do not have the power to create it, but sometimes with a bit of luck, the proper promotion, and the exact amount of human touch with the fans, and perhaps the sliver of the moon, the magic appears.
We are going to make magic appear, Anderson.
Your friend in baseball,
PS: We are going to need a press release about our partnership. Those Otterbots are making too much noise. Let’s fly our muscles a bit.