On a frigid opening day in southern Wisconsin, the Beloit Snappers (low-A, Oakland A’s) lost 5-1 to the Burlington Bees in front of a sparse crowd. In his first game with the Snappers after spending last season with the Vermont Lake Monsters, Herschel Mack “Boog” Powell IV went two for four and made a nice catch in centerfield—all before meeting the host family he’ll be living with this season. After the game, Powell spoke with me about his familiar name, how he stays warm in freezing weather, and life in the minor leagues.
It was opening night for the low single-A Snappers of Beloit, Wisconsin, and in more ways than one, we were a long way from the bright lights and glamor of the team’s Major League affiliate, the Oakland A’s. The game had all the trappings of a great minor league experience—I parked for free, the food was cheap, there were fun activities between innings, and I got a selfie with the team’s mascot, Snappy D. Turtle.
The players themselves—barely older than teenagers, if that—live with host families and travel by bus from game to game as they try to scrape and claw their way from the bottom of the minor league barrel. Between the cold weather and low-A ballplayers shaking off the early-season rust, it was not the crispest game I’ve ever seen. (Though it was not appreciably worse than the White Sox game I saw in Chicago the day before.)
The team announced a paid attendance of 282, but one Snappers employee in the press box did a rough head count and came up with a number closer to 75. At one point, an activity in which children were supposed to race around the bases between innings was scratched because, as the call came in over the radio in the press box, “we don’t have the demographic.” (That is, there were no kids there.)
The last professional baseball team to carry the nickname Expos was not from Montreal, but rather Burlington, Vermont. When the Montreal Expos moved to Washington DC after the 2004 season, the team’s short-season single-A affiliate did not have time to change names before the 2005 campaign started.
“When Major League Baseball owned the team at that point, they kind of wanted to forget the Expos and move on to the Nationals,” Vermont’s general manager Nate Cloutier said. “With our name piggy backing on theirs, they had asked us to consider renaming the team, and at that point, we just didn’t have enough time to do so. It was a couple months before the season, and anyone in the industry knows that it takes months and months and months to not only rebrand but also get inventory in terms of merchandising and uniforms and stuff like that.”
You may have noticed some sparsely attended games at stadiums around the league early this season. You can blame that on the economy, bad weather in some cities, and the existence of the Marlins, but maybe it’s just an issue of promotion. We thought we’d chip in and help MLB out by coming up with new advertising campaigns for all 30 teams in the league.
For roughly 28 out of every 30 Major League Baseball fans, the season opens next week! Can you feel the buzz in the air? No? This is because for two teams the season opened while your team was still playing Spring Training games. This is also because the first games on the schedule took place in the wee hours of the morning more than 5,000 miles away from the home team’s actual home.
The Mariners and the Athletics played a two-game series this week in Tokyo—actual games that count in the actual standings (and your fantasy league)—while the rest of baseball continued with Spring Training. Then after these actual regular-season games in Japan, Seattle and Oakland will play more Spring Training games.
On April 4, a full week after the A’s and Mariners opened the season, two of the remaining 28 teams (Marlins and Cardinals) will open their seasons with a one-game series in Miami. The Red Sox, Tigers, Braves, Mets, Phillies, Pirates, Nationals, Cubs, Blue Jays, Indians, Reds, Dodgers, and Padres open their season the next day. And if you’re a fan of the White Sox, Rangers, Twins, Orioles, Yankees, Rays, Brewers, Rockies, Astros, Giants, D-backs, Royals, or Angels, your opening day is nine days after the season officially opened.
This begs the question, What the hell is going on here?