The 40th episode in this second season of the hit MLB.com game show "Bucks on the Pond" powered by Ford stars White Sox fans Nora Riley and Mike Draniczarek of Chicago as willing participants on a ballpark date, and that is a recurring trend around Major League Baseball.
In the 69 overall episodes since the series' inception last season, roughly half the contestants have been couples. MLB.com randomly snags them on the concourse for trivia, and inevitably two people seeking happiness and home runs learn things about each other that they had not known before. The inherent need for teamwork tends to strengthen or expose relationships, and everyone gets to watch the action.
"It's another 'Bucks on the Pond' love story," show host Jeremy Brisiel said. "We love 'em here."
Riley and Draniczarek met at Illinois State University, and they have been dating for 2 1/2 years. She nannies full-time while taking classes online for speech pathology. He was graduated with a Mathematics degree and now works for Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford.
"Nora and I have always enjoyed going to games," Draniczarek said in an email to MLB.com. "I played baseball my whole life, and the ballpark is probably my favorite place in the world. That day we were chosen, we actually came into the park early to feast on some of the great food that the Cell has to offer, because we were starving, and next thing we know, we are playing for 'Bucks on the Pond.'"
This is the third White Sox episode of the season, and you will have to watch the full video if you want to see whether Riley and Draniczarek, fielding trivia inside the White Sox Social Media Lounge, can add to the $21,510 racked up by fans at 25 of the 30 MLB parks.
Shows are released each Tuesday and Thursday, and you might be a part of this season when you least expect it. Fans at the ballpark interact with MLB.com's studio through the magic of technology in conjunction with game action inside.
Contestants are asked a trivia question -- general knowledge and baseball -- on each pitch during a half-inning of baseball. Get the question correct and win money. Get the question wrong and it's a strike. Three strikes and you're out.
The questions' difficulty and value increase with the number of outs in the on-field action: $5 easy questions to start, $10 medium-difficulty questions after one out, $20 hard questions after two outs. If the contestant lasts longer than the team's at-bat, they win the bucks in their bank.
Cross the $100 mark during the show, and it's time for "Say the Word" powered by Ford SYNC. You can wager any part of your bank on that next question, which is asked each episode by 2014 Hall of Fame candidate Frank Thomas. Answer correctly and you win, answer incorrectly and you lose that amount ... and it's another strike.
That has to be one of the highlights on a date at this ballpark, where Thomas now has his own statue. How often do you get a chance to answer a trivia question from the Big Hurt?
"We both loved the game," Draniczarek said. "I'm a big fan of game shows, trivia and baseball. I know Nora loved that there was a variety of questions for everyone. It's something I would definitely watch on TV."
Topics in this episode included state capitals, music services, White Sox mascot, explorers, TV series, Minor League affiliates, "Superbad," Spanish fare, managers, "Friends," Spring Training, Yale, Nick Cannon and oceans. As you will see, a Netflix subscription can pay off.
They may have a little difficulty with the subject of past White Sox managers, but they have plenty of collective expertise when it comes to the current one. Draniczarek wears a custom No. 23 Robin Ventura home jersey during the show.
"I got it as a gift years before he was hired as the new manager," said Draniczarek, who also has a Ventura Oklahoma State jersey. "He was my favorite player growing up, mostly because of how great of a fielder he was."
In Episode 17 of this season, another White Sox couple banked 200 bucks, and it went toward a subsequent Bahamas cruise. Alas, it was a strikeout in Episode 26 for a quartet of White Sox fans.
In addition to the White Sox, teams visited by the "Bucks" crew include the Angels, Astros, Athletics, Brewers, Cardinals, Cubs, D-backs, Dodgers, Giants, Indians, Mariners, Marlins, Mets, Orioles, Padres, Phillies, Pirates, Red Sox, Reds, Rockies Royals, Tigers, Twins and Yankees. Bookmark MLB.com/bucks and be on the lookout for the "Bucks" crew at your ballpark.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog.