soft hands.

By day, Rod Blackstone is the assistant to Charleston, W.Va., Mayor Danny Jones. But by night, or at least nights when the West Virginia Power have a home game, he morphs into Toastman.

And while you might think that being the right-hand man to the mayor of a state capital is pretty prestigious, Blackstone's "alter ego" has far more fame and notoriety in the world of Minor League baseball.

Last week, I was chatting with Kinston Indians manager Mike Sarbaugh and happened to mention I was going to be heading down to Charleston to see the Milwaukee Brewers' South Atlantic League farm team.

His eyes immediately lit up.

"You're going to see Toastman!" exclaimed Sarbaugh, who managed the Lake County Captains in the Sally League in 2005 (he was also a hitting coach in the SAL in 1995-96).

Well, Blackstone wasn't the reason we scheduled the trip, but rest assured, he ended up being one of the highlights of the visit to Appalachian Power Park (you can see all of those highlights on the Around The Minors video show that airs Wednesday, Aug. 9).

How can I explain Toastman in a nutshell? (Or a crust, I guess). Diehard fan doesn't begin to describe it.

A season ticket holder, Blackstone holds court in the front row of Section 107, in the aisle seat just to the visiting dugout side of home plate (the better to rag on the visiting players in the on-deck circle).

He's really hard to miss because, among other things, he has a TV table set up in front of him which holds an electric toaster with piles of freshly made burnt toast (he deliberately burns it so no one will eat it).

When an opposing batter strikes out, Blackstone will lead the fans in a chant of "You are toast! You are toast! You ... are ... toast!" and fling pieces of toast into the stands. [MILB]
11:27 PM :: ::
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