Despite many New Orleans sports fans firmly planting their heads underground like defective Who Dat ostriches, deaf to anything other than football in the football-less months, the 2013 baseball season opens tonight. Amid the stirrings of the dozen matchups is a news item that hits, or strikes, or puns closer to home: the possible move of New Orleans' minor league heroes.
Houston Astros owner Jim Crane told MLB.com that he's considering some Triple A franchises for Houston, including the New Orleans Zephyrs. (Crane said the team would move to the suburbs in The Woodlands or Conroe, which could mean a new stadium and/or moving existing minor league teams.)
The Astros' current Triple A farm team is the Oklahoma City RedHawks, a deal that runs through 2014. Terrance Harris at NOLA.com reported that if they made the move, the Zephyrs would possibly have to break their lease with SMG that runs through Sept. 30, 2016.
Not just a good place to drink on a Thursday or catch mini Lady Gaga, Zephyr Field is the odd relative of New Orleans sports landmarks, a testament to America's pastime — "the shrine on Airline" — and one rich with history.
The team was founded in 1993 — the first professional baseball team in the city since the New Orleans Pelicans, which played from 1887 to 1960 (with a short-lived revival as a farm team to the St. Louis Cardinals in the '70s). The then-Denver Zephyrs first played at the University of New Orleans, and in 1997, the team moved into their own (nearly $30 million) stadium on Airline Drive. In 2008, the team became the Triple A affiliate of the Miami Marlins (which incidentally smoked them in an exhibition game shutout last weekend). In 2011, the team introduced the "fleur de Z" logo.
America seems to love "mini" versions of its favorite pop stars (our webmaster, Maria Boué, has a poster of Mini KISS in her office), so it's no surprise that the New Orleans Zephyrs, which always provide lagniappe at their games, will be bringing back Mini Lady Gaga and Mini Beyoncé to entertain the crowd at the June 4 game against the Nashville Sounds.
Mini Lady Gaga is the creation of entertainer/entrepreneur Terra Joie, who has also appeared as Mini Britney (Spears). Here's Mini Gaga and Mini Beyoncé (Tonya Banks) performing "Telephone" at a 2010 Zs game:
No clue what Mini Gaga is going to do this year, but "Born This Way" is a safe bet.
Go to a Zephyrs game tonight and you could make history.
Singer-songwriter Chubby Checker will celebrate 50 years of the Twist, a dance craze he sparked with his 1960 hit of the same name, by leading the crowd in the dance to break the world record for the most people doing the Twist at the same time. The Guinness Book of World Records currently lists the record at 1,700.
The Zephyrs vs. the Albuquerque Isotopes game starts at 7 p.m.
Checker also will perform a concert Saturday, Aug. 14, at the Sigur Civic Center (8245 W. Judge Perez Drive, Chalmette) to benefit the Tower of Lights Project, which seeks to install lights on the 540-foot Port of St. Bernard Tower as a way to show thanks to the volunteers who have helped St. Bernard Parishs recovery from Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures.
Tickets are $40 each and are limited to 3,000. Doors open at 6 p.m., the Chalmette High Jazz Band plays at 6:30 p.m. and Checker takes the stage at 8 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at any A-1 Appliance store.
Checker made The Twist popular as a song and a dance by touring heavily in support of his recording, starting in 1959. On Sept. 19, 1960, it was No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 list. It took that position again on Jan. 13, 1962 the first time a single topped the charts in the United States at two separate times. The Fat Boys featuring Chubby Checker re-recorded The Twist in 1988, and it reached No. 1 in Germany and No. 2 in the United Kingdom. Rolling Stone has ranked The Twist No. 451 on its 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list.
Checker made the song his trademark, but he didnt write it. It was originally released in 1959 by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, with Ballard receiving writing credit.
Gambit sports guy Alejandro de los Rios is in Europe, and fashion guru Kara Nelson is on maternity leave, so we have no experts to consult regarding the New Orleans Zephyrs' new logo, which was unveiled this afternoon at a press conference at the Fox and Hound. What's news? No more Boudreaux the nutria:
The old logo, of mascot Boudreaux taking a bite out of the "Zephyrs" script, has been replaced by the "Fleur de Z" logo, with a baseball bat as the centerpiece and the new "Zephyrs" script across the middle...
"The fleur de lis is known nationwide as the symbol of New Orleans, and by incorporating it into our logo, we are emphasizing, again, how proud we are to call New Orleans home," said Jessica De Oro, Zephyrs Director of Promotions and Merchandise. "No matter where we play, people will know that we are from New Orleans."
Additionally, the Zephyrs have introduced metallic silver into the color scheme for the first time, taking the place of the hunter green that has traditionally been used. Navy blue will remain the Zephyrs' primary color.
A famous animal-rights group and all-purpose publicity-seeking missile (which shall not be named here) has come out with its list of the "Top 10 Vegetarian-Friendly Minor League Ballparks." (Who knew the Portland Beavers served "Tofurky veggie dogs"?) Strangely, our own beloved New Orleans Zephyrs are not on the list anywhere.
Is it the "pig nachos"?
Councilmember-at-large Arnie Fielkow will send a lucky child to Chicago to attend a baseball game July 26 between the Chicago Cubs and the Florida Marlins at Wrigley Field.
by Alejandro de los Rios
For those who pick the former, I suggest you refresh yourself on the Saints starting lineup. For the latter, it's best to just remember that it is still the offseason and no, Drew Brees doesn't have any baseball aspirations...that I know of at least.
Turns out this picture is of Drew Brees taking batting practice and, as the folks at Deadspin have reminded us, Brees played baseball bak in high school (Deadspin also reminds us that Brees has "history of rotator cuff and elbow injuries," but we'll ignore that).
The bigger news, it seems, is that it was Ken Oberkfell's last act as manager of the Zephyrs as he and two coaches were called up to the New York Mets to fill the void of recently fired manager Willie Randolph. Of course we wish nothing but the best to Oberkfell and his crew. Queens is supposed to be beautiful this time of year. That is, if you ignore the boos.
(Photo courtesy of New Orleans Zephyrs)
By Alejandro de los Rios
All right, so most people would call it Opening Day, but with all the action on the field, not many may have noticed the field itself. I said it before, but I'll say it again: It's brand new, all $1.2 million of it. And the man you see in the picture in the green shirt hosing the dirt before the first pitch is Thomas Marks, the head groundskeeper at Zephyrs field going on seven years. So what was wrong with the old field?
"You get what you pay for," Marks said.
Apparently, the team hadn't paid for much. As Marks described it, the old field had no drainage system to speak of. A problem when you're in a place like New Orleans where sudden, intense showers happen regularly during the summer. On the old field, sudden showers meant Marks and his crew would spend a good 40 minutes squeegeeing the water off the playing surface.
"You got a half acre of water that you gotta move and it wasn't easy," Marks said.
by Alejandro de los Rios
Baseball? You may ask. How is it anyone could play baseball yesterday?
Well the storm came and went and, though voluminous, the rains couldn't drown the Zephyrs brand-new $1.2 million field at least the part in between the foul lines. In all fairness, though, the field drained impressively and it took a second glance to confirm that yes, it is indeed real grass.
But the real wonder of the night wasn't that the Zephyrs players could go out and actually hold a practice, but that there was actually a small smattering of fans in attendance.
OK, maybe "smattering" is a bit generous. It was four people. But four devoted people nonetheless.
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