Say the name Benjamin Hill in a Minor League ballpark and everybody knows who you are talking about. Benjamin Hill is my big example when it comes to blogging. Ben is working for MiLB for a long time so he is inextricably linked to that part of the baseball landscape. Luckily Ben was so nice to spend some time answering my questions.
Like many American kids, Ben played baseball. Through the age of twelve he was an above average player but since he was a small kid, it got harder for him to compete with the kids that were bigger than him. Eventually, he decided to hang up his spikes after his sophomore year in high school.
Ben went to the University of Pittsburg and graduated with a BA in communications in 2001. But that degree did not bring him to baseball immediately. First, he After graduating he enrolled in AmeriCorps (the domestic Peace Corps) and spent a year working at a charter school in Pittsburgh. In 2002 he moved to New York and worked in various tutoring capacities next to spending one year as a full-time third-grade teaching assistant.
In 2005, Ben joined Minor League Baseball to write game reports based on the box scores and game logs that you can find at milb.com. The blog (Ben’s Biz Blog), what he is famous for, started in 2007. It took him until 2009 to become a full-timer. The other part of his job, Ben is famous for, the road trips, started in 2010.
On my question what was the most memorable moment in this long stretch, Benjamin answered: “The promotions I liked the best were tied into the National Eclipse that took place in August of 2017. Every team in the path of totality staged a ballpark event of some kind, creating indelible moments for many. I attended that day’s Columbia Fireflies game, and was just blown away by the in-game “eclipse delay.” The game stopped and everyone (including players and umpires) put on glasses and experienced the phenomenon together. It went from light to total darkness to light again in less than half an hour. Also, in 2010, I attended the opening of the Hank Aaron Childhood Home and Museum in Mobile. There were seven Hall of Famers at the ballpark (including Aaron, of course), and I interviewed several of them. I was just starting out at the time, as regarded road trips, so the whole experience was especially surreal.
One of the parts of his road trips is the designated eater. Since Ben is diagnosed with celiac disease, he still wanted to cover the ballpark food. So he did not have another choice to work with the fans in the ballpark who eat several food items and tell him how they taste. The video below shows how the designated eater phenomenon works.
Perhaps the toughest part of his job is that he cannot follow the games that are played in the ballparks he is visiting. Last season, Ben reached a major milestone as he visited the ballpark of the Grand Junction Rockies. With that ballpark, he managed to have visited all MiLB ballparks. “It was very special to me. Since the beginning, I’ve basically made up this job as I went along. It felt good to have a definable milestone to celebrate,” Benjamin stated.
Ben likes the vastness of MiLB. It encloses big cities and small towns and everything in between. “The diversity of the landscape has provided me with a lot to explore and, therefore, a lot to write about,” he stated.
Ben starts to plan his season late February and early March as he sets the schedule for the entire season. But he can always add a ballpark or two when the season is going on.
He uses a general template that he follows during his road trips, but he takes things one ballpark at a time. He tries to be prepared as much as possible when on the road but there is a lot that cannot be planned so at times it comes down to improvising and reacting to what is happening as he is doing his best to capture the experience.
Ben is planning to visit the three new ballparks in Minor League Baseball: Las Vegas/Summerlin, Lafayette, and Amarillo. On my question what challenge is left to keep visiting ballparks now, he has visited every ballpark in MiLB, he answered: “Following the end of any given season, my goal is always to have “#BenEverywhere.” There are also some parks that I haven’t visited since 2010 or 2011, so a return is long overdue. But, yes, now that I’ve been to every ballpark, I’m reassessing how I do my work. I want to do things in new ways, and not simply repeat what I’ve already done.”
Another part of Ben’s Biz Blog is the subversive ballpark jokes. Since Ben always loved comedy and wordplay doing ballpark jokes was a natural extension of that. According to Ben, the “Subversive” joke format was inspired by Vine. It’s a challenge to do a set-up and punchline in six seconds.
On our final question, if Ben has the ambition to move up to MLB even when he knows that Major League Baseball is much more serious, he answered: “Never say never, as MLB obviously attracts bigger audiences. But I’ve never had any specific ambition to get “called up.” The Minors are far weirder and more intimate and accessible. It’s a world I relate to and have always felt at home in.”
To finish this article, I’d like to thank Benjamin for the time he has taken to answer my questions. It is very, very, very much appreciated.