Harrisburg Senators – June 24
Day #2 of my 12-game, 12-day baseball road trip for The Ballpark Guide put me in Harrisburg, PA on June 24. Harrisburg’s AA team, the Senators, plays in the Eastern League and is notable as being the starting point for Stephen Strasburg’s pro career last season.
When I got to town, I found my hotel and waited to head over to the ballpark. Metro Bank Park is actually on an island called City Island. It’s close to the Pennsylvania State Capitol so it’s an interesting drive.
The game was set for 7 p.m., but when I arrived around 5 p.m., the parking lot was partly full and people were everywhere. Did I miss something? Did the game’s start time get bumped up?
No and no. It turns out that in addition to hosting baseball, City Island has a ton of other things to see and do. Before the ballpark’s gates open, you can check out such attractions as batting cages, a miniature train ride, mini-putt, kayak rentals, arcades and a merry-go-round.
I could hear one of the teams hitting, so I headed beyond the outfield fence and tried to find some balls. There’s a boardwalk that runs around the perimeter of the stadium, and while lots of balls were home runs, they were hitting the boardwalk or a fence and staying in the park. I walked under the bleachers and peeked through at the field …
… (creeping this player out in the process, I think) but there were no balls.
Without having any luck, I went back to the area beyond a small parking lot where I could stand back and watch for balls. Here was my view:
I figured that if a ball came out, I’d be able to see it and track it down quickly. And that’s exactly what happened about five minutes later:
The ball was majorly scuffed, but it was my second ball in two games on this trip, so I was happy.
When BP wrapped up, I went to buy my ticket …
… and as the gates were still 20 minutes from opening, took a walk around the park in the other direction:
See the rails? That’s for the miniature train you can ride.
I paused to appreciate the Senators’ physical location:
And just as I got back to the main gate, it was open and people were streaming in. Tonight was the team’s flatscreen TV giveaway. Yes, you read that correctly. Wild, right? The team does this promotion every Friday night, and one TV is given away every inning. The main concourse was crowded as people filled out ballots and jammed them into boxes. I waded through the crowd and headed down the boardwalk a bit. Here’s a view from the third base side, looking back toward the main gate:
Instantly, I could tell this facility was beautiful and well cared for. There were so many things to take in that it was hard to decide where to go first. I took this quick panorama from the center field area:
And started to note all the great features at Metro Bank Park. Below is the boardwalk, which stretches around the entire stadium except for a paved area behind the right field corner. This particular shot is taken behind the batter’s eye. I bet I made more than 10 complete laps of the stadium from the time the gates opened, and the funny thing is, other people were, too. I’d routinely pass people I’d seen earlier, so it’s obvious this ballpark feature is well used.
Metro Bank Park has a great seating option — a bar around most of the outfield with bar stools. They’re assigned, but if you happen across an open one, it’s a perfect place to sit and watch the action:
I went into the right field corner and because the field-level gate was open, took a panorama from this spot:
If you visit this park, the first thing you need to do is walk its entire perimeter. When you do, you’ll get an appreciation for just how much is in here. Even under the home plate grandstand, you can find a ton of concession stands and other things to see. This random area is for groups and features a stage:
In my travels behind the stadium, I came across Harrisburg’s clubhouse:
Back up top, I marveled at the quality of the image on Metro Bank Park’s scoreboard:
Remember the bar stools I mentioned earlier? Here’s what they look like above left field:
The bar stools are a great place to sit, but one of the neatest seating sections I’ve ever seen is the field-level boxes along the third base line. They’re reserved for groups, and they’re adjacent to the visiting team’s dugout:
The kids’ play zone is under the boardwalk along the third base line, directly behind the field-level boxes:
After checking out that area of the stadium, I wandered back to the right field area (I told you I did a lot of walking) and found a little something that must’ve been hit during BP:
I watched Harrisburg starter Brad Peacock warm up:
Notice that he’s got his eyes shut during delivery? Then, I went to the other bullpen to watch Altoona’s Jeff Locke getting ready:
When the game began, I headed to my seat, which was in the outfield just over the right-center fence. For the first time in a long time, I bought an all-you-can-eat ticket. Here’s the argument for it: The ticket itself cost $16. I could’ve bought a $10 ticket and eaten $10 of food, right? The $16 gets you as many hot dogs, sliders, peanuts, popcorn and ice cream sandwiches as you can eat. (There’s also a nicer all-you-can-eat section for $30, featuring salads, chicken, beef and more.) Anyway, I quickly polished off a couple dogs and took a quick shot of my popcorn and slider (my final food tally will be at the end of this post):
I spent the next couple innings in the Ollie’s Bargain Outlet Cheap Seats section, directly above left field. If any fan in this section catches a home run, she gets a gift certificate to Ollie’s:
Back to the all-you-can-eat area a short while later, I ate a tiny ice cream sandwich:
Size, of course, is irrelevant as you can eat 100 of them if you want.
The home run catch promotion in the Ollie’s section is pretty cool, but it pales in comparison to this guy’s seat:
Every game, a fan gets picked to sit in this beach chair for one inning. If he catches a home run, he wins $10,000! And speaking of giveaways, I still hadn’t won my free TV, but I’m sure it’d come later.
I soon made the trek behind home plate to take this panorama:
Metro Bank Park is the first ballpark I’ve seen that has a bar-style seating area for MLB scouts directly behind home plate; you can see that in the above shot.
Midway through the game, I went back to the left field area to check out the team store. It’s huge and very nicely done, and also gives you a nice, air-conditioned reprieve from the sun. There were lots of things to consider, including a selection of game-used bats, jerseys and warm-up jackets. I opted for a Harrisburg cap, as I’ve always liked the logo:
I spent innings seven and eight in the Ollie’s section again. In the seventh, Altoona manager P.J. Forbes went bonkers over a call and got himself ejected. He was pretty wild, too. The following series of photos aren’t great, as I was so far away, but hopefully they give you an idea of what happened:
As darkness fell, the stadium was invaded by mayflies. I have to give the Senators credit, though. Faced with a situation they can’t control, they have fun with it. They rate the night’s invasion with the Mayfly Meter, which is shown on the scoreboard. Tonight’s game ranked 5/10, but you can see that there were lots of the flying critters:
I don’t think I’d want to see what 10/10 looks like.
I spent the ninth inning in one of the field-level boxes, as it was now empty. It gave a perfect view of the field. As for the game, it was exciting but scoreless through nine innings. In the bottom of the 10th, however, pinch hitter Alex Valdez blasted a home run into the Harrisburg bullpen to give the Senators a walk-off win; an exciting end to an awesome experience.
I didn’t stick around for the fireworks display, but could see and hear them as I drove back to my hotel.
As for my food tally, here was the damage:
– 2 hot dogs
– 2 sliders
-2 bags of popcorn
– 1 bag of peanuts
– 1 ice cream sandwich
(I didn’t want to overdo it and feel miserable for the next day, so I kept things under control.)
Oh, and I didn’t win a TV.
Tomorrow, I’m off to Maryland to check out the New York-Penn League’s Aberdeen IronBirds.