Live from the hot stove meeting at the Our Lady of Holy Souls parish hall last night, the talk centered on promotions for the coming year, news on the new baseball stadium, Travs coming and going, and... hot dogs, which were consumed by the dozens and even given away as raffle-ticket prizes.
Travs GM Bill Valentine said Petit Jean Meats has formulated a new hot dog that debuted last year and will be served again this season at Ray Winder Field. They are called Razorback Stadium-sized Jumbo Grillers, but Valentine said don't let the packaging fool you because they debuted with the Travs before being sold at War Memorial Stadium for Hogs football games. They are similar to the large-style hot dog that was served at the ballpark before Petit Jean took over as supplier a few years ago.
When he brought up the $5 parking recently proposed by NLR Mayor Pat Hays, the crowd responded with a resounding "booo!" But Valentine said it is only one lot directly west of the stadium that will charge the fee in order to pay for construction of the lot, and he said he found plenty of areas for free parking after driving around the neighborhood one night after an NLR city council meeting. (This is the point where I remembered Valentine's staunch opposition to plans for a downtown Little Rock stadium because there were some areas he wouldn't be caught dead parking in.)
The new scoreboard sounds incredible, almost Major League quality. It will cost $1 million, which is almost $400,000 more than was originally budgeted. Valentine said Warren Stephens is paying for the additional cost because he recognized the importance of getting a scoreboard that wouldn't be technologically outdated in only a few years. Hurray for Warren Stephens! This was the best news of the night. And, the scoreboard will show Major League scores during games, unlike recent seasons at Ray Winder.
All seats will be assigned at Dickey-Stephens except for possibly a bleacher area and the berm section. No more general admission, which is maybe a good thing. Valentine said ticket and concession prices would remain pretty much the same.
There will be a beer garden serving draft beer. No one asked about the beer man, but I assume he will still be roaming the stands selling beer in cans.
Ray Winder will go out in style by hosting the Texas League All-Star game on June 20, which will include a fan fest the day before in the River Market area. There will be plenty of other promotions also celebrating the final season and final games of this historic park.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the night was Angels player development director Tony Reagins. He's a really nice guy with a ton of insight into players and the inner workings of baseball. A few quick hits...
- Brandon Wood is the real deal and is expected to start the season with the Travs (I predict he ends it at AAA Salt Lake). Wood hit four home runs in a game last season at Rancho Cucamonga, so Mike Willingham please let everyone know to be aware when driving on I-630 on a game night.
- Erick Aybar is done playing in Little Rock. He is tearing it up "with the big boys" in the Dominican Republic winter league and is ready for the Majors but will probably start the season at Salt Lake.
- With the above-mentioned shortstops and second-basemen Alberto Callaspo and Howie Kendrick, there is a ton of middle infield talent in the Angels farm system.
- Kendry Morales is expected to get a real shot as the back-up first baseman for the Angels.
- Catcher Mike Napoli had a great winter league season and is not going unnoticed by the Angels as someone who will soon end up in the big leagues.
- Sounded like pitcher Jered Weaver is coming along so fast, he may not be returning to Arkansas either.