Last week, I wrote about my next road trip, which begins tomorrow.
Since then, plans have changed slightly, but I’m still going to see at least three games between now and Aug. 7.
I’ll still watch the New Hampshire Fisher Cats on July 28, and I’ll still be in attendance to see the Portland Sea Dogs play on July 31.
After that, though, I’ll be taking a short ballpark break and won’t see the Vermont Lake Monsters until Aug. 7. I’m going to this game with a friend I haven’t seen in close to a year, so I’m super pumped for that.
Once I get back from Vermont, I’ll be home for three days and leave for another long road trip, beginning Aug. 11. On this one, I’ll see 12 games in 12 days. I’ll blog about the specific details in the next week or so, but I can definitely say it’ll be an amazing trip!
I plan to blog and provide updates on Twitter during my next trip, so as always, keep checking me out here and @BallparkGuide.
As you may have read about here, I had an amazing time when I visited Parkview Field to watch the Fort Wayne TinCaps back on May 27. If you haven’t read that blog entry, take a look; I got an all-access, behind-the-scenes tour from the team’s GM. It was incredible.
Anyway, Fort Wayne has been one of my favorite destinations so far, and one of those reasons is the extensive, well-priced team store at Parkview Field.
I was especially excited that the team sells broken, game-used bats from TinCaps players. (Some are even autographed.)
As I’m a sucker for game-used memorabilia, even at the Minor League level, I couldn’t resist picking up a bat. And I think you’ll agree it’s a beauty:
It’s one of Ryan Skube’s bats. Skube was a 44th-round draft pick of the San Diego Padres in the 2009 amateur draft, and according to Baseball-Reference.com, never actually suited up for the TinCaps. Here’s a close-up of Skube’s engraved name on the barrel:
After being drafted out of high school, Skube spent 2009 with the Arizona League Padres, then split time in 2010 between the AZL Padres and the Single-A California League’s Lake Elsinore Storm. I suppose he used this bat at some point in 2010:
As you can see, the bat is made by Old Hickory:
It’s got tape around the handle, which shows lots of wear …
… and some wear on the barrel itself, too:
You can’t see it in any of the images above, but the knob of the bat says “RS 4″ in pencil — his initials and number.
That brings me back to Skube. I can’t find a record of him playing anywhere in 2011, which leads me to wonder if he’s out of baseball. That seems odd, as he was only 19 when he finished the 2010 season in Lake Elsinore, and hit .412 in four games. With the AZL Padres, he batted .242 in 27 games. Thus, he played just 31 games in 2010. Did he get injured and is still hurt? I don’t know.
I saw that Skube has a Facebook account, so I’m going to try to track him down there and find out what he’s doing. Hopefully, he’ll be back in the game before long!
Last week, I posted photos and short blog entries about four different autographed balls I obtained during my most recent ballpark road trip.
Today, I realized I still haven’t posted pictures of the ball I got signed during my visit to Dow Diamond to watch the Great Lakes Loons play back on May 22. If you haven’t read about that memorable trip, here’s my blog post about it.
On this ball, I got a total of eight different signatures. I’m not sure about the first two, but the next two in the image below are pitcher Bret Montgomery and outfield Bobby Coyle:
In this image, the sigs belong to 1B Blake Dean and another mystery guy:
Here, it’s another mystery guy:
And here, it’s pitcher Andrew Pevsner:
I know, it’s lame to not know a few of the signatures, but given the way players jump from team to team in the Minor Leagues, figuring these guys out is difficult. At least two of the guys whose signatures I obtained are no longer with the Loons, and it’s a huge task to go through the team’s transactions to see if a name lines up with one of these autographs.
That said, I’d love to know which guys I have. Does anyone out there know?
Finally, here’s one last image of the ball, alongside the giant Loons collectible cup I bought during my visit:
Hopefully, you’re not sick of seeing signed balls yet. But if you are, I’ve got a treat for everyone either tomorrow or Friday. It’s not signed, and it’s not a ball, but it’s definitely awesome. I’ll say game-used, and leave it at that … for now.
** UPDATE **
A couple hours after posting this entry, the Great Lakes Loons got in touch with me for information about the mystery autographs.
They tell me the top autograph likely belongs to 2B Bryant Hernandez and the next one belongs to pitcher Michael Drowne.
The bottom sig on my second image above likely is that of Chris Jacobs or Chris Henderson, while the image below the “China” marking is former Loons closer Logan Bawcom.
A couple notes: Since I got Drowne’s autograph, he was sent down to the Pioneer League’s Ogden Raptors.
Bawcom, meanwhile, after putting up an impressive 4-1 record with 14 saves and 56 Ks in just 45.1 innings pitched with the Loons, was promoted to the California League’s Rancho Cucamonga Quakes.
Thanks to the Loons for the reply. They were awesome to deal with when I visited Dow Diamond, and I definitely hope to get back there some day.
My next road trip won’t be as long as my last two, but I’m definitely looking forward to it. This one isn’t about seeing as many games as I can in a short period of time (that’ll come during my next one, beginning mid-August). Instead, my wife and I are fitting three games into a summer holiday. But don’t worry, I’ll still be blogging while I’m away.
Game #1 takes place on July 28 as we travel to Manchester to watch the New Hampshire Fisher Cats take on the Reading Phillies. As you can read about here, I watched the Fisher Cats in playoff action last fall at home. Why go back, you ask? Well, I always want to get as much ballpark information as I can for my growing website, TheBallparkGuide.com. (If you want to read a fan guide to Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, home of the Fisher Cats, you can visit this link.) Also, the ballpark has changed names since I was there last fall, so I want to get some new photos.
Last year, I stayed in the Hilton Garden Inn with a field-facing room:
And because I can’t resist, I’ll be doing the same thing again this year. This time, however, I’m hoping to catch some BP home runs on The Porch, an outdoor bar run by the hotel that is situated directly over the outfield fence. During my last visit, the teams didn’t take BP.
I’m also keen on sampling more off the Fisher Cats’ seafood menu. Last time I was there, I had the clam strips basket. This year, who knows?
And lastly, this is a great facility and the on-site hotel is just plain awesome. Plus, the Cats are the AA affiliate of my favorite team, the Toronto Blue Jays.
Game #2 will be in Portland, Maine, on July 31. We’ll watch the Portland Sea Dogs host the Altoona Curve. I’m excited for this game because Portland’s Hadlock Field looks neat, and because fans are allowed to play catch on the field after the game. This’ll be the second time I’ll be on a field this summer. In June, I got to go on the field at an Erie SeaWolves game.
Game #3 will be on August 2, and we’ll watch the host Vermont Lake Monsters up against the State College Spikes. These teams play in the New York-Penn League, a league I’m rapidly getting through ballpark by ballpark. So far, I’ve got three official guides to NYPL ballparks up on my website: Falcon Park, home of the Auburn Doubledays, Eastwood Field, home of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers and Joseph L. Bruno Stadium, home of the Tri-City ValleyCats.
It should be a great trip. Between now and then, I’ll have details on my fourth road trip of the summer; it’s another 12-day, 12-game affair that I’ve almost got completely finalized.
Thanks for reading!
If you’ve been reading my blog this week, you’ll likely have seen the three autographed balls I posted over the last three days.
Today, I’ve got a pretty cool ball that I got autographed at the Bowie Baysox game on June 26.
On the day of my visit, the team had an autograph day. Everyone but the day’s starting pitcher sat at tables throughout the concourse with Sharpies and pens in hand. I took a ball, started at one end of the line, and maybe 20 or 30 minutes later, I had 26 signatures.
There’s no point in listing all the guys; I got everyone on the roster at the time, plus the coaches. There are, however a few notable signatures. Below is the sweet spot, with manager Gary Kendall’s autograph right in the middle. Kendall was super nice; I was wearing my Aberdeen Ironbirds cap, and since he used to manage that team, we talked about Ripken Stadium a bit. The signature to the right of Kendall’s is Buck Britton, the brother of O’s pitcher Zach Britton. Why else is this noteworthy, you ask? Buck was selected 1,046 overall in 2008, and he’s hitting a combined .323 between A-class Frederick and AA Bowie this season. I love stories like that.
Here’s the next angle of the ball:
And another angle. Right in the middle of this ball is the signature of former MLB catcher Einar Diaz, who’s a coach with Bowie. Diaz played 11 seasons in the Bigs and was really friendly.
The fourth angle of my ball:
And, finally, the last shot. See the sig right at the very bottom? That’s Denny Hocking, the team’s hitting coach and a 13-year MLB vet. He also did broadcasting work for Fox Sports Radio, so you might recognize him from there.
Anyway, I’m pretty happy with this ball. It’s a little crammed, but it’s always cool to get a full team on one ball. I’m attending at least one more AA team autograph day this season, so I hope to repeat this success.
I’ll have more cool stuff to post soon, including details of my next trip and some awesome game-used memorabilia I picked up this summer. Check back soon!
Over the last two days, I’ve posted autographed balls from 1970 AL MVP Boog Powell and two-time National League All-Star Justin Upton.
Today, I’m posting the third autographed ball I got on my most recent road trip, which took me through Pennsylvania, Maryland and eventually to D.C.
This ball comes from someone taken second overall in the 2002 MLB Entry Draft — Justin’s brother, B.J. Upton:
B.J. hasn’t been an All-Star like Justin, but he has hit for the cycle, doing so back in 2009. He’s played his whole career with Tampa Bay and I’ve seen him play live a number of times. I bought this MLB-authenticated ball at Nationals Park, just as I did with the one signed by Justin. Both balls were a good deal, and I thought it’d be neat to have signatures from both guys.
One last ball tomorrow!
If you read yesterday’s post, you’ll know that I’m currently in the middle of posting four balls in four days. I got these balls through various means on my last road trip, which you can read about on this blog.
Ball #2 belongs to a member of the National League team for tonight’s MLB All-Star game. As you can read from the super-legible signature, it’s Arizona’s Justin Upton:
Upton is a former first overall draft pick and a two-time NL All-Star.
I bought this ball at Nationals Park during my recent visit there. The Nats have a great autograph booth featuring MLB-authenticated autographs and game-used equipment. This ball was a decent price, and I couldn’t pass it up — in part because of how perfect Upton’s autograph appears.
I’ll post ball #3 tomorrow. In the meantime, thanks for reading!
Today, and for the next three days, I’m going to post a photo of a different autographed ball I got on my last road trip. Make sure to follow me on Twitter or bookmark this blog to see my next post.
My first post is an autographed ball of Baltimore Orioles great, and 1970 American League MVP, Boog Powell:
Powell is a two-time World Series winner, four-time All-Star and hit 339 home runs in a career that spanned from 1961 to 1977. Powell currently owns Boog’s BBQ at Camden Yards, and frequently hangs out at the popular eatery and meets fans. I got to meet him and get a photo with him during my second game in Baltimore on June 30.
Which autographed ball will I feature tomorrow? Check back and find out!
Finally, I’ll have news on my next road trip very soon.
The last stop on my 12-day, 12-game road trip was Binghamton, NY, for an Independence Day showdown between the Binghamton Mets (NY Mets) and the Portland Sea Dogs (Boston Red Sox). The game was set for 6:35 p.m., with an extensive fireworks show to be held afterward.
I arrived in town around 3 p.m. and bought my ticket. On the way back to my (illegally) parked car, I saw a coach bus from Maine stopped by the curb. I suspected it was the Sea Dogs’ bus, and sure enough, the door soon opened and out came the team, entering the stadium through the gate in the left field corner.
My next mission was to book a hotel; once I did, I unpacked my car and headed back to NYSEG Stadium, which has an ample parking lot that costs $3:
I made a quick stop in the empty parking lot behind the outfield fence, where a couple fans were hoping to snag a ball during batting practice:
I took a look at the scene, however, and decided that it wasn’t worth waiting here. There’s a gap of at least10 feet between the outfield fence and a second fence, so it’d take a big shot to clear both.
Besides, the gates were opening 1.5 hours early today, so I’d be able to get in while BP was still going on.
As I walked up the street toward the main gate, I noticed how shady the area was. I mean, it was super shady. This isn’t a knock on the Mets; it’s just calling a spade a spade. Anyway, I saw a sign that attested to the shadiness:
In other words, “Stop driving around the stadium looking for hookers. It is wrong and you will get a disease/arrested. That is all.”
I got my usual ticket photo …
… noting how nice this ticket is. So many MiLB tickets are plain, but I like the colors on this one.
Before I entered, I took a quick shot of the front of NYSEG Stadium …
… and the ticket office itself:
There was a lot to see once I got inside the stadium. The team had a giant hallway full of merchandise:
A number of plaques featuring former Binghamton Mets:
And a big, Mets-themed kids’ play area:
I walked quickly through the kids’ area, however, to get to a picnic section down the right field line. A guy already there said he’d just caught a BP ball, and I knew I would be able to get on the board if I stayed for a bit, too. Sure enough, less than five minutes after standing here …
… I snagged this old, Eastern League ball:
The Mets were taking BP, so a bunch of the guys were out shagging in the outfield:
I figured I might get more than one ball, but only one other came remotely near me, and I misplayed its carom off the fence and missed it.
When BP wrapped up, I took a walk around the stadium to note a few features. There’s a rail yard/line right behind the left field fence, so trains roll through on occasion:
NYSEG Stadium opened for the 1992 season, and as you can see below, its suites are pretty old looking from the outside:
I then took a walk down to the left field corner where a few Sea Dogs were hanging around the bullpen. I watched Portland’s Chih-Hsien Chiang do some running with a personal trailer/interpreter type:
Then watched Stolmy Pimentel throw a bullpen session:
After his session, he got some tips from pitching coach Bob Kipper and catcher Matt Spring:
When their chat wrapped up, I headed back to the main concourse where I browsed the B-Mets’ team shop, which contained a ton of cracked bats …
… and bought an on-field warm-up jacket off the discount rack for $28.
I noticed an open grill area behind home plate, used to cook burgers, sausages and other snacks. Neat, in theory, but it made SO much smoke that walking through the area was not very appealing:
Later, I went back to the field level to take some action shots of guys warming up. You’ll notice below that Binghamton was wearing patriotic jerseys in honor of Independence Day.
Here’s Portland starter Chris Balcom-Miller (who got royally lit up):
Mets outfielder Matt Den Dekker:
Outfielder Raul Reyes:
Starter Jeurys Familia and catcher Salomon Manriquez:
When the game was about to begin, roughly a zillion summer camp kids descended on the stadium. I was surprised to see this, as it was a holiday and an evening, but it was happening nonetheless. My seat was roughly in the middle of this pack below, and it goes without saying that I didn’t both venturing anywhere near the crowd:
Instead, I took up a spot along the third base line:
The B-Mets jumped all over Portland early, scoring seven runs in the second inning. From my vantage spot, I had a good view of the B-Mets coming around third base to score over and over again. I also was able to get a neat shot of a Bingo player jumping out of the way of a pitch:
Later in the game, I went behind home plate to take this panorama …
… then pushed my way through the gigantic crowd of kids who were milling everywhere. I made it back to the relative quiet of the right field area, where some Portland guys were hanging out in the picnic area instead of the bullpen. And they were looking dejected, I might add:
I had hoped to get a decent meal of a sausage, potatoes and corn on the cob, but they were all sold out by the midway point of the game. Instead, I opted for perogies, which I wouldn’t have bought had I seen them:
Yep, they were gross. I added a bit of pepper just so they weren’t looking up at me so forlornly, but they didn’t do much for me.
I took another panorama from field level in the eighth inning, when hordes of Mayflies were descending on the stadium:
And then, left before the fireworks began. A ton of people from the area had arrived in time for the end of the game, meaning getting out after the fireworks would be a lengthy process. Instead, I left right at the end of the game and got to hear (and occasionally, see) the fireworks from my hotel room.
Before my second Nationals game, I decided to walk around the outside of the stadium to take in the sights. A day earlier, big crowds prompted me to quickly get into the stadium, but on July 3, I had more time.
I took a long walk around the entire stadium, and saw the team’s head office …
… a plaque recognizing baseball’s return to D.C. …
… and even the players’ parking lot:
(Range Rovers seem to be pretty popular among ball players.)
Here’s what the first base gate entrance looks like:
And here’s a panorama of the center field gate, where I entered for both games:
Today, the crowds weren’t so bad, so I was able to score a $5 ticket …
… when the gates opened, I went straight down to field level to watch some Nationals tossing:
(Sorry, this guy’s name escapes me.)
See these giant lineups?
They were for the team’s autograph signing day. Chien-Ming Wang (who I saw pitch a few days earlier on a rehab stint in Hagerstown), Doug Slaten, Cole Kimball and Alex Cora were all signing:
I decided to forget about standing in line for 20 minutes to get one autograph, and it soon paid off. A few minutes after I took the above photos, the previous day’s starter, Livan Hernandez, came out to sign:
I got him on a ball I snagged a few days earlier at a Minor League game:
After getting my autograph, I went down the to Lexus Presidents Seats, which run $300+ a pop. You can’t even cut through this area, so the photo below is as close as I could get:
I stopped and watched the Nats’ pregame radio broadcast in the center field concourse for a few moments …
… then went and got a loaded hot dog for lunch. I got one covered in mac and cheese and Fritos, and while it tasted OK, it was impossible to eat without making a mess:
I then took a spot up along the first base line …
… and watched Jason Marquis have an absolutely terrible outing:
This mound visit was either in the first or second inning. Ouch. Though he was 7-2 going into the game, Marquis could not make a pitch. He left after 1.1 innings after giving up eight hits, six earned runs and even making an error:
After a few innings, I went behind home plate to take this panorama:
When I write my official guide to Nationals Park for my website, TheBallparkGuide.com, you’ll get a comprehensive list of all the places to eat. But in the meantime, I have to share one cool feature I’ve never seen elsewhere:
Yep, onion and relish dispensers that you crank. (I wonder if I could convince my wife to let me get one of these for the kitchen.)
I spent a couple innings standing behind a railing in the left field corner, where I took this picture of myself:
Nationals Park has a ton of places like this. It’s nice because if your seating area is crowded, or if you just want to stand up for a while, you can go find a spot to watch:
The Pirates cruised to a 10-2 win in a game that was all over in the first inning, and after its conclusion, I took the subway back to my hotel. Waiting for my hotel’s shuttle bus, I struck up a conversation with another guy who’d been to the game. After I told him about my website, he told me how the last time he’d watched a pro game in D.C., it was in the mid 1970s. (The old Washington Senators, of course, left in 1971.)
I love unsolicited opinions. The guy then told me (disgustingly, I should add) what a horrible manager Davey Johnson is and how the day’s loss was on him. He said Johnson’s not ready to manage in the Big Leagues and how Jim Riggleman was slapped in the face by Washington management. I said I understood what he was saying, but giving the team an ultimatum can come back and bite you in the hind parts.
The guy completely flew off the handle, telling me I was wrong and how when you’re “only” making $600,000, the team’s taking advantage of you. “He showed them,” the guy said. I pointed out that now that Riggleman is making $0, the team may be having the last laugh. The guy was starting to ramp up his rebuttal (while his wife stood there and blatantly rolled her eyes) when our shuttle bus came. Saved!
With my visit to the nation’s capital now in the books, I had one last stop on my 12-game, 12-day road trip: A visit to Binghamton, NY, to watch the AA Mets.