Around Osceola
Osceola News-Gazette

Follow Us On:

‘Ben’s Biz’ author includes Kissimmee in nationwide ballpark tour

Posted on Monday, July 16, 2018 at 1:16 pm

Friday part of his visiting all 159 MiLB stadiums

By Ken Jackson
Staff Writer

Ben Hill really likes minor-league baseball, and it shows in his work.

He spends his time writing his Minor League Baseball (milb.com) blog about the zany antics of fans, staff, players he’s seen, and the local delicacies he encounters at the nation’s ballparks.

Lots and lots of ballparks.

Within the next two months, he can say, “all of them”, and as of Friday that list includes Osceola County Stadium.

Hill’s “Southeast swing” brought him through Kissimmee on Friday. He writes the “Ben’s Biz” blog (bensbiz.mlblogs.com), and will have visited all 159 current affiliated minor-league ballparks by the end of this season. He toured here Friday, Daytona (Tortugas and Jackie Robinson Field) Saturday, Jacksonville (Jumbo Shrimp and the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville) on Sunday and Augusta, Ga. Monday and Tuesday.

News-Gazette photo/Ken Jackson
Minor-league baseball writer Ben Hill, who will have visiting every current ballpark by the end of the year, greets Florida Fire Frogs mascot Striker during Hill’s Osceola County Stadium visit Friday.

He was a special guest of the Florida Fire Frogs Friday, taking in a pretty good ballgame, Florida’s come-from-behind 5-2 win over the Clearwater Threshers. He was part of a between-inning dance-off with Striker the mascot, enjoyed the Latin beat of the band that comes for “Los Coquis” Friday nights, and chronicled how Free Beer Friday (usually on a Thursday) lasted nearly four innings and over an hour.

Hill said the Fire Frogs brass are clearly doing what they can to do the near-impossible — attract a crowd in the Florida State League.

“It’s a unique league with usually being part of larger spring training complexes, or in this case former ones,” he said. “It can be hard to find the minor-league vibe within a sprawling major-league facility but this is a really nice ballpark, nicer than a thought. A team like this, they’re doing a great job in a very tough league.”

The night was chronicled on his blog and Twitter feed (@bensbiz), including, indirectly, the food, In 2012 Hill was diagnosed with celiac disease and has to go strict gluten free, so he recruits a “Designated Eater” at each ballpark he visits, and this individual is tasked with eating the ballpark cuisine that Hill’s gluten-free diet prohibits.

While Striker “campaigned” for the job, it went to local baseball fan Lynn Smith, who enjoyed the custom loaded brisket with tater tots and cheese sauce.

“There’s pleasure in my work,” Hill said. “When I’m at a ballpark I’m working, but there’s a lot of fun elements.”

Hill developed his niche “accidently at first” in 2009, when he became a full-time milb.com employee, going town-to-ballpark taking note of each one’s uniqueness.

“In the last two years, I said, why not go everywhere?,” he said. “I went into my job with the expectation it would turn into something else, and it’s evolved on its own and become my deal and a big deal to get everywhere.”

And even when he gets to the end of the line in Grand Junction, Colorado on Sept. 4, new construction will give him other new locales in 2019.

“Done is relative in minor-league baseball — there will be three new ballparks this year,” he said. “It’s turned into a mission that I’ve decided to own this year.”

So what’s his favorite ball park?

“What’s your favorite kid? And most people don’t have 159 kids, but it’s like that,” Hill said. “I’ll end this leg of the trip in Bristol (Tenn.) in the Appalachian League, where they don’t have a full-time employee and essentially play at an American Legion field. That’s grassroots baseball the way it’s meant to be.”

He’s not just doing this tour for himself, as his barnstorming includes a philanthropic aspect. He has teamed up with Vs. Cancer, an organization dedicated to helping kids with cancer, and solicits donations at a number of ballparks he visits this season. Many of the teams he is visiting contribute to the cause via souvenir auctions and other fundraisers.