Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Cellular Field’

Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team Being the Chicago White Sox #1 fan is more than a hobby- it’s hard work requiring discipline, dedication and adherence to a routine. “This guy is serious about his Sox,” yelled a random White Sox fan in the U.S. Cellular Field parking lot when Soxman and I approached the gate on the home opener holiday. He was obviously referring to Soxman, or as I call him “the Southside Dark Knight.” You may have seen our Caped Crusader on television or read his work in the Red Eye.

Because the wintry weather delayed White Sox opening day, the seat of Batboy (Soxman’s fellow season ticket holder and masked sidekick) opened up. Like Batman sending critical evidence to Commissioner Gordon, Soxman called upon me to join him for 2009 opening day. This event gave me a chance to witness what our superfan superhero experiences each game.soxsignal

I met him where the “Soxmobile” is parked, observed his pre-game rituals before he got into costume and walked with him along the covert route he takes to the stadium (this route keep’s the Soxmobile location clandestine) This was unprecedented “Sox-Access.”

“For five years, my routine as remained unchanged. Pregame meal at a local Bridgeport establishment, listening to Sox jams to get into the character “zone,” and NEVER leave my seats if we are losing or the game is tied. I didn’t waver for a second today,” Soxman said.

Countless fans seek getting their picture taken with him everywhere he goes in the park and our Sox superhero never turns anyone away.

“There are no greater fans in the City of Chicago, the United States, or even the world! I’ve said it 1000 times before. Brad Pitt is just another actor if the fans don’t buy tickets to his movies. The fans made Soxman and I’ll never forget that. It’s why it took us 1.5 hours to get to the Sox Mobile after the game,” Soxman said.

The Sox trailed for nearly the entire game, but beat the Royals 4-2 in highly dramatic fashion. Legend and former Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver once said the key to winning baseball is “pitching, defense, and the three-run homer,” the exact formula the Sox implemented on opening day. My story with this superfan included a happy ending because the Southsiders: played errorless ball in the field, limited the Royals to 2 runs, and Jim Thome’s 3-run blast in the 8th inning. The storybook finish created a joyous atmosphere on our way out of the park.

“White Sox opening day is like a family reunion. There are so many fans that I have come to love with distinct personalities. Like your wacky uncle, girl-chasing younger brother, or grandma who likes to give hugs,” Soxman aptly described.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team

Baseball and snow is like sobriety and Tara Reid- some things are just not meant to go together. A combination of snow, wind and cold changed the White Sox home opener versus the Kansas City Royals from Monday to Tuesday (weather permitting). Despite the atrocious weather, when Opening Day does finally commence, it will be quite ceremonious.

The National Anthem will be performed by Grammy-nominated recording artist and Chicago native Matthew Santos. Prior to the National Anthem, Santos will perform with Grammy-Award winning hip-hop artist and south suburban native Lupe Fiasco. The collaboration will perform their well-known song, “Superstar,” which is nominated for two Grammys.mark-buehrle-ws

This game will feature guys who sell lots of records and the tying of a White Sox club record. This year’s starting pitcher, Mark Buehrle, will tie Billy Pierce’s record with his seventh career Opening Day start. Pierce will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the game. President Barack Obama was invited, but his job keeps him quite busy these days, and he will be in Turkey. Pierce, who spent 13 seasons with the White Sox, was named to the White Sox “All-Century Team” in 2000, had his uniform #19 retired in 1987 and a sculpture of the lefty pitcher was unveiled at U.S. Cellular Field in 2007.

Getting the opening day start is quite an achievement, because it’s typically reserved for the staff ace. “Especially with the years that {John} Danks and {Gavin} Floyd had last year, for them to name me it’s definitely an honor. The first day is a big day because it’s such a buildup of two months of spring training.”

Games that Buerhle pitches in notoriously take less time than usual, so fans braving the cold, wet elements on Tuesday will likely not be outside for the full length of a regular game. Seven of his career starts have taken less than two hours. The Sox ace spoke about Mother Nature impacting the opener.

“I don’t really know if it’s an advantage for me or them. I don’t like pitching in the cold weather and I’m sure they don’t like hitting in it, but both sides have to deal with it, so go out there and do the best you can,” Buerhle said.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street TeamWhatever you call U.S. Cellular Field: Sox Park, Comiskey II, The Cell, you must admit the park has come a long way since it opened in 1991. Prior to hosting the All-Star game in 2003, the park began a series of major projects augmenting the park into a warm and friendly baseball-going experience. One prominent detail from 2003, the exploding fireworks within that year’s All-Star game logo, is prominently featured in 2009’s facelift. The same logo catches the eye at the new entrance/atrium at Gate 5.

“It’s something that is our mark because of the fireworks from the exploding scoreboard and you’ll also see the same exploding fireworks on the façade of gate 4,” said Lou Hernandez, director of Public Relations. Fireworks have been a big part of the team’s brand awareness since the Bill Veeck era- when colorful designs shot up to the sky from the “exploding scoreboard” following wins and home runs.

Media were allowed to view the U.S. Cellular Field improvements on Thursday, and the demonstration of the team’s new out-of-town scoreboard was another impressive sight. It features dynamic color resolution and up-to-the-second updates on statistics and scores. “It’s all through Major League Baseball’s computer and the advantage of this one is you can see whose up, who’s on base, what just happened and it will flip over to every game in baseball,” said Scott Reifert, Vice President of Communications.

Down the stretch last year, you might remember how irritating and frustrating it was waiting until they posted an update of the Minnesota Twins (or other teams we needed to lose during the pennant race) score, and by the time they did it was outdated. This year, you’ll have a gigantic, enhanced version of Yahoo Game-Tracker available on the wall behind right field to keep you up to speed.

The media tour also included an inside look at the trainer’s room, specifically the new hydrotherapy room at the ballpark. It was kind of like sports bar meets the Sybaris as three massive pools (therapy, cold plunge, and communal hot tub) are centered in a room with four plasma televisions. With all the new upgrades, the White Sox home continues to maintain its place as Chicago’s most state-of-the-art baseball facility.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank

On Tuesday night black and white come together as the Chicago White Sox will host “Chicago Blackhawks Night,” the signature event in the partnership between the Major League Baseball team and the Blackhawks of the NHL. I’ll be attending the festivities tomorrow night as the Sox fittingly take on the team (the Toronto Blue Jays) from the city where the Hockey Hall of Fame is. I’m sure I’ll have plenty of interesting post-game/event material to write about too. This night game, broadcasted on Comcast Sports Net, will feature special promotions before, during and after including: a pre-game party and parade for Blackhawks season ticket holders (more than a 1,000 of which purchased tickets to the game through a unique cross-promotion collaborated by both teams’ marketing departments) appearances by Blackhawks players and legends, a special outdoor television broadcast by White Sox announcers Ken Harrelson and Darrin Jackson from the Fan Deck above center field, and a rare mid-week post-game fireworks show.

The Hawks front office released this statement. “The Blackhawks are appreciative of the unique opportunity to showcase our product to White Sox fans,” said Jay Blunk, Blackhawks senior vice president of business operations. “The marriage of both brands creates a very unique template for cross promotion and marketing which we hope to maintain for years to come. The White Sox event and relationship is one more step in making the Chicago Blackhawks brand accessible 12 months a year.”

The Sox front office is excited too. “We are excited about Blackhawks Night at the ballpark,” said Brooks Boyer, White Sox vice president and chief marketing officer. “The Hawks and Sox are a perfect match in Chicago sports. With similar fan bases and visions, this partnership has been exceptionally successful in bringing two legendary Chicago sports brands together.”

I think I’ll have a wing-ding of a time! Get it? “wing-ding” like the hockey player position! Thanks I’ll be here all week.

For more Chicago sports analysis and talk go here.

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank

Welcome to the Scout Seats/Lounge!

“White Sox fans are very blue-collar” says Chicago Tribune White Sox beat writer Mark Gonzales in an annoyingly inaccurate commercial. Perhaps you’ve seen this Tribune spot where they showcase the beat writers for both local teams. Gonzales, and those who stereotype Sox fans this way are dead wrong.  I’ve profiled three places at U.S. Cellular Field where the congregating Sox fans have plenty of income. Or coin, moolah, bread, cheese, cheddah, scrilla, paper, bills, jack, c.r.e.a.m.,or dinero. Now I’ll bring you inside the most exclusive place in the park and the seats that are closest to the action, the Scout Seats,
which opened during the World Series year of 2005.

Amenities include
• Private lounge for entertaining clients and guests
• Premium buffet in private lounge with all beverages included
• Private access to best seat locations in the park
• Invitations to exclusive White Sox events

The heavenly decadent extravagance of the chef’s table buffet equals the gourmet spread you get upstairs in the Bards’ Room. (Where the credentialed media eats) Being a White Sox history geek, I know the dining hall is named after the Woodland Bards club, basically the Southside’s answer to the West Side Rooters Social Club (Cubs) or the Royal Rooters (Red Sox). 

Getting back to the gentlemen of this day, the Scout Lounge regulars tell me this is where Owner Jerry Reinsdorf and GM Kenny Williams eat.  I believe them too because I saw Manager Ozzie Guillen come in an hour before the lounge opens to get his coffee. (No cream, 2 Equals is how he took it) There’s a lot of juice in this club, and I’m not talking about the beverages. John Malevitis is an attorney who attended 79 of the 81 home games last season. When he missed two games in a row, the bartender called him to see if he’s sick or not. (Yes, I do plan on making this guy an interview subject for a future story) Baseball nerds like us also appreciate the Club’s most memorable feature: a behind-the-glass collection of prized White Sox memorabilia that is shown during the White Sox pre-game introduction on the scoreboard.

The scout seats are sold out. Click here for the waiting list

For the full and more detailed version of this story go here

For more Chicago Sports Discussion and Fun go here 

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank

Welcome to the Jim Beam Club!

“White Sox fans are blue-collar” says Chicago Tribune White Sox beat writer Mark Gonzales in an annoyingly inaccurate commercial. Perhaps you’ve seen this irritating Tribune spot where they showcase the beat writers for both local teams. Gonzales, and those who stereotype Sox fans as lacking in class are dead wrong. I’ve profiled a couple places at U.S. Cellular Field where the congregating Sox fans have plenty of income. Or coin, moolah, chips, wad, cash, bread, cheese, cheddah, scrilla, paper, bills, jack, c.r.e.a.m., lucre, coin, or dinero. I’ll introduce you to the place with the best overall views in the park, the Jim Beam Club. It opened last season in the spot where the press box used to be. This royal experience starts at $265 per seat, per game and is only sold on a full season basis. Sometimes a Multi-year commitment required for certain locations. (You can often find single game passes on Ebay and Craig’s List too.) However, once you get past that initial sticker shock, it’s a pretty good deal. Think of how much tickets cost. Add in parking, food and booze. If you splurge on any of these things, the total sum gets you in the ballpark of the Beam Club which includes Premium Levy Restaurant Buffet, Open bar till the 7th inning and In-seat menu and wait service (padded 22” open-air seats).

“This is our premier seating area and restaurant, but we also have the standard ballpark fare (nachos, hot dogs, burgers etc.) that people will always be looking for,” said Club coordinator Maribeth Reese.

Jim Beam Club Amenities

-Premium reserved parking in Lot D
-Concierge service
-Access to private lounge
-Flat-screen televisions (some showing other games) throughout the club and seating area
-Invitations to private on-field events and member parties
-Former player appearances in the Jim Beam Club lounge

That last was one I find the most interesting because Maribeth told me all about the celebrities that have visited the Club including John Cusack, D.B. Sweeney, Bernie Mac, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Derrick Rose and Jerry Springer. Yep, the people in this club have juice that’s 100% pure, no pulp. Check back soon and I’ll take you inside the Scout Seats and private lounge.

For more pictures and further detail on the club click here.

For more Chicago sports information and discussion click here.

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank 

During the weekend that America became engulfed by the force of nature that is the Batman sequel “The Dark Knight,” I spent a couple nights in the shadow of our local caped-crusader, The Soxman. And given that the city of Chicago plays the role of Gotham in the current summer event film, it is fitting that our hero represents a Chicago team.

I followed Soxman from his traditional pre-game meal (which is always done out of costume) to the end of the night, noticing all the heads that turn as he slowly walks by. Hordes of people approach and request a photo taken with him. Basically, a night at the park with him is what would happen if you were to breed Halloween with Soxfest. You experience all that is Sox Nation in the most gregarious of atmospheres. The hotties come forward, seeking to get their pictures in further circulation. I even saw one ask if the dynamic duo would sign her breast. They refused, instead signing her shoulder. And little kids love him too. Seven year old Alyssa Choksin, a season ticket holder a couple rows from Soxman and Batboy, gives his sidekick a Twizzler every single game. On Saturday night, Soxman even caught a foul ball and promptly gave it to four year old Matthew McLean, who was attending his first Sox game.  

Soxman’s made so many mainstream media appearances that it takes a whole Wikipedia page to list them all. The duo’s promotional photo is even the desktop wallpaper for the computer guy at WGN.  Soxman has a weekly online mailbag in which people ask him questions on everything from baseball to relationship advice. Making the rounds with him at the ballpark is the only way to truly acknowledge his celebrity. I talked to so many people about this story that I was doing that I gave away all the NBC5 Street Team and SportsBank business cards in my pocket. When we collaborated on a Dark Knight themed White Sox article, it broke my site’s record for blog comments the first day! But he’s also a fantasy baseball geek and Peter Gammons-esque major league baseball expert. He’s the only person I know who’s “passion and swagger” for the White Sox makes it difficult for ME to keep up with HIM when talking shop on the pale hose.

I completed my weekend shadowing the “White Sox Dark Knight” by taking in the record-setting blockbuster film with his real life alter-ego, “Bruce Wayne-Parker” and seven of his closest friends. There, he told me how less than 40 total people know both his identities, me being the sole journalist. It made me feel like Commissioner Gordon, serving the public good through the media industry instead of the police department, but still this superhero’s confidant and peer adviser.

I also asked him when White Sox fans should send out the Sox signal, and he responded in verse: “When your spirits are low or the Sox are down, send out the signal, on the south side of town.  Remember to stay positive and control your rage, or just send me a message on my Myspace page. Passion is explosive, like a time bomb.  Need positive energy? Just go to thesoxman.com.”  
Click here for the full account of my two nights at the park with Soxman. For more Chicago sports analysis and fun, click here.

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