I had an outstanding visit to Wilmington’s Daniel S. Frawley Stadium to watch the Blue Rocks host the Potomac Nationals last month. That visit included a pre-game, all-access tour, a half-inning in the press box and more. If you haven’t already read about it, here’s how it all went down.
As I said a while back, I added a cool game-used souvenir to my collection while I was in Wilmington, and here it is:
It’s a lineup card that hung in the visitors dugout at Potomac’s G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium during the Blue Rocks’ 5-4 loss to Potomac on May 4. The team was selling these for a whopping $2 in the team shop, so I couldn’t resist getting one.
And because I’m a baseball nerd, here are a handful of cool things about it:
- I think it’s neat that the Kansas City Royals (Wilmington’s parent club) is on the card. It doesn’t actually say Wilmington (or Potomac, for that matter) anywhere.
- As you can see on the Wilmington column, reserve Brian Fletcher was moved off the bench (hence his name being crossed out under the Extras header) to the third spot in the batting order midway through the game.
- Because this was Wilmington manager Vance Wilson’s lineup, there were considerably more notations next to the opponents’ names. I have no idea what the highlighter strokes next to the 1, 2 and 6 hitters mean, but the S and L notations denote switch hitter or left-handed hitter. The other little markings, which you can see around both teams’ lineups are codes used by the manager to note in-game events. And the star next to David Freitas’ name? I have no idea, except it might mean: “Beware. This guy’s good.” Freitas went 0-for-4 in the game but had a .356 average at the time.
- I find it interesting that Wilson didn’t fill out the bullpen pitchers in the designated spot. I’ve seen lots of lineup cards, and I believe this is the first I’ve seen without the pitchers. As you can see, he did add the names of the two umpires.
- Here’s something else intriguing. The 10 spot, which is used for each starting pitcher, isn’t correct on the Wilmington side. Wilson had Yordano Ventura penned in for the start, but it was actually Ryan Dennick who took the ball. (Ventura pitched two days later against Potomac.) It’s funny that Wilson didn’t mark this change.
There are a ton of other cool things, and before long, I’ll have written 1,500 words about a lineup card. Two players I want to quickly point out, though: Randolph Oduber, who led off for the P-Nats, played last season in Hagerstown, where I got a couple photos of him walking with Bryce Harper. And the Beltre you see on the Wilmington side isn’t Adrian, obviously. It’s the lesser-known Geulin. (This is only worth mentioning because I heard fans excitedly saying Adrian Beltre was playing after they saw the starting lineups posted in the stadium concourse.)
This is the second lineup card in my collection. Last year, I bought an MLB one in Detroit, which you can read about here.
Finally, since we’re on the topic of Wilmington, I thought I’d post a picture of the souvenir cup I got during my visit. (With a Carolina League ball beside it for perspective.) I’ve collected a handful of souvenir cups on my travels over the years, so one day, I’ll blog about them. In the meantime, here’s the Blue Rocks one, which features a 2012 schedule:
If all goes according to plan, I should have some early details on my next road trip next week. Either way, I plan to have a couple more blog posts.
Now that I’ve blogged about meeting Frederick Keys outfielder Jeremy Nowak, which was the highlight of last month’s baseball road trip, I want to review the 10 goals I made for myself before hitting the road.
In all, I did pretty well, especially considering there were a few hiccups along the way that impacted my ability to cross off some of the goals.
Here’s the recap:
1. Get tours of five of the seven parks
The first stop on my road trip, May 21 in Lakewood, was rained out, so tours at five of seven was skewed from the get-go. That said, of the six games I attended, I did get an official tour at four parks and some great help/advice at the other two, so I’d say I achieved this goal.
2. Get 10 baseballs
The short answer is that I finished with six baseballs, which falls slightly short of my goal. But hang on. One game was rained out and of the other six, only two had batting practice. So, I’d say that six balls in six games is good, considering I try to average a ball a game. Here they are, including two International League balls from batting practice at Buffalo’s Coca-Cola Field, an NCAA tournament ball from Wilmington, two Carolina League balls from Frederick’s Harry Grove Stadium and, at bottom, the Jeremy Nowak home run ball:
3. Get a game-used item
If you read my recent post about Jeremy Nowak’s home run ball, you’d agree I knocked this item off my list of goals. Hard to imagine a cooler game-used item! The runner-up is a game-used item that I picked up in Wilmington, which I’ll blog about later this week.
4. Get autographs from Wally Backman and Ryne Sandberg
This one was a wash. Why? Because I got media passes for all the games I attended, including those in which I saw the two legendary MLBers. And as you can see on the bottom on one of my passes (and they all say this), passholders are prohibited from asking for autographs:
5. Find a food item that gets into my top 10
As a reference point, here are the top 10 things I’ve eaten on my travels. It’s close, but I think I’ll bump off Classic Park’s pulled pork nachos and replace the #10 slot with the crab fries at Trenton’s Waterfront Park. They weren’t quite as good as I thought they might be, but they were unique enough to sneak through the backdoor into the 10th spot:
6. Be interviewed during a game broadcast
Check! This happened twice and both times, it was really exciting. I was interviewed on the Wilmington Blue Rocks broadcast by Jeff O’Connor and the Frederick Keys broadcast by Adam Pohl. And in case you missed the pictures I posted about those interviews, here they are:
7. Get 50 autographs
In the same vein as the attempt to get Backman and Sandberg to sign, this one is a no-go. But I’ll call it an N/A rather than a fail, because I didn’t ask for a single autograph.
8. Buy a hat
Oops! There were a couple times I wanted to get a hat and just didn’t pull the trigger. The first was at the rained-out game in Lakewood. I think the BlueClaws’ hats look neat, but given the cancellation of the game, I wasn’t able to get one. Secondly, I wanted to get a Keys hat at Harry Grove Stadium, but the hats were all behind the counter and I’m a methodical hat buyer. I like to try a bunch on until I find one that fits me perfectly, and didn’t bother doing so. Does this mean that next road trip I’ll get two hats? Yes. Yes, it does.
9. Have my photo taken with a player
It’s fitting that I got a fan to capture the coolest moment of the road trip. The photo is grainy and dark but the smiles say it all:
10. Have some unforeseen fun adventure
I think this qualifies, don’t you? If you want a runner-up, here it is:
- Despite the rainout, I was able to get into Lakewood’s FirstEnergy park and wander around the near-empty park by myself. It might not seem that thrilling on the surface, but imagine getting into a ballpark by yourself and touring it at your leisure. It was special. Here’s a photo of the deserted park I took on my self-guided tour that I haven’t previously published:
So, what’s next for me? Despite the highlights of my May trip, I’m confident my next trip will be great for a number of other reasons. I’m in the middle of planning it now, and I’ll have a blog post about that soon enough.
In the meantime, please check out The Ballpark Guide and remember that your clicks help me pay for future travels and adventures. Thank you.
If you’ve read the details of my first baseball road trip of 2012 by now, you’ll know that I’ve been saving the best story for last. But first, a little background.
My trip would include a stop at Harry Grove Stadium, home of the Frederick Keys, but this visit would be extra special. Finally, I’d get the chance to meet Keys outfielder Jeremy Nowak, who I’ve been in touch with since last December. The full story is at this link, and I definitely recommend you check it out before proceeding. It’s a definite baseball feel-good story.
Obviously, I was pretty pumped to meet Jeremy. I’ve been following his progress closely in 2012 and he’s having a career year. In addition to being named to the Carolina League All-Star team, he’s been among the Keys’ statistical leaders all season. In fact, despite a stint on the DL earlier in the season, his 68 hits put him first among the entire Baltimore Orioles farm system, as you can see from this stat tracker on the O’s website:
I’d kept in touch with him on Facebook before departing on my trip, so he knew I’d be showing up at the Keys game against the Carolina Mudcats on May 23. (You can read about that visit here.)
The weather throughout the afternoon of the game was miserable enough that at times, it looked like the game would be called off before it even began. Still, I hoped to spot Jeremy on the field — or in the players’ parking lot, at worst — at some point to say hello.
Shortly before the scheduled start of the game, the Keys took the field and it wasn’t long until I spotted #11:
Despite the weather, the game was indeed on, and the Keys began to get warmed up. I took a ton of photos of Jeremy, but I’ll just share a few here so I don’t look like a demented stalker:
At the end of the warmup, I stood at the fence and when Jeremy looked up, we sort of made eye contact and he came over to say hello. Even though the game was fast approaching, he was enormously friendly and it was awesome to finally meet him. I wanted to get a photo with him, and we decided to meet up again after the game.
Jeremy was batting third and hitting from the left side, so I moved over to the seats above the visitors’ third base-side dugout to get some pictures of him at the plate:
He struck out during his first at-bat and after I spent the top of the fourth inning in the broadcast booth being interviewed about TheBallparkGuide.com by Adam Pohl, I raced back to field level in time to see Jeremy hit a single in the bottom of the inning:
And when Michael Flacco doubled two batters later, Jeremy moved up to third base:
As the game progressed, the weather got miserable. Don’t get confused — I was still having the time of my life, but the rain and darkness made the quality of my photos quickly deteriorate. Jeremy came up again in the fifth inning, and this time, I was eating a late dinner in a seat down the first base line where I had this view:
Then, with runners on second and third and one out, and the the Keys trailing 2-0, Jeremy blasted a Kyle Blair pitch over the fence in right field! It was on a line and hit the billboards above and behind the outfield fence hard enough that it bounced back onto the field, where Mudcats right fielder Anthony Gallas scooped it up and tossed it to the Frederick bullpen. From there, a Keys reliever flipped the to ball to a couple fans who’d run to the area.
When I saw the ball take off, I jumped out of my seat and thought how it’d be so cool to run behind the fence, grab the ball and give it to Jeremy after the game. (The home was his second at the High-A level.) But when I saw it come back on the field and eventually make its way to the fans, I forgot about it and just stood up and cheered. I probably should’ve run toward the Keys dugout to get a picture of Jeremy crossing home plate, but I think I was in enough awe that I just stood and clapped. Eventually, I snapped out of it and got this rainy photo of him heading toward the dugout after scoring:
I was still pumped, so I emailed my wife a quick message:
JEREMY JUST HIT A HOME RUN!!!!!!!!!
And my wife, who cares about baseball as much as I care about molecular biology, responded with:
Jeremy had one more at-bat (a strikeout in the two-run sixth) and as the rain intensified, the game was called in the seventh. Final score: Frederick 7, Carolina 2. In other words, Jeremy’s three-run bomb scored the game’s winning runs.
One of the neatest features about Harry Grove Stadium is that after the game, the players exit the field, walk up a set of stairs at the end of the seating bowl and cross the concourse to their clubhouse. Naturally, I was waiting to congratulate Jeremy and shake his hand. When I spotted him, I went to meet him with a huge smile on my face and told him congrats. He shook my hand quickly and said, “That’s your ball.”
Then he disappeared as I stood there starting to suspect what was happening.
He was referring to something he wrote in his letter to me back in December. Here’s a close-up of what he said:
I’d long since stopped hoping I might get the ball; to me, the big prize was not only meeting him, but seeing him hit a game-winning home run for the Keys.
Minutes later, Jeremy returned with a ball in his hand and a fan trailing behind — only the fan was carrying a bat that I knew was Jeremy’s. It turns out that he’d given the fan one of his bats in exchange for getting the ball back.
This time, it was Jeremy who approached with a huge smile and handed me the ball, which he’d also signed for me. I was completely speechless for a moment as I stumbled to remember to say thank you. After Jeremy and the other fan, Jason, told me the story of the ball/bat exchange, I took a photo of the two of them with the bat:
And then got a photo taken of Jeremy and me:
The three of us stood and chatted for a minute, and Jason asked, “Are the two of you friends? How do you know each other?” In a moment that almost seemed scripted, we both responded at the same time, “It’s a long story!”
Soon enough, Jeremy headed into the clubhouse and I hung out on the concourse for a bit, where I took this photo of the ball:
I’ve since taken these better shots of it:
You know how you sometimes build something up in your mind and then the actual event falls short? And other times, it’s pretty much what you expected. This game and its events absolutely blew me away and were far better than I could’ve dreamed. I can’t imagine what will top it — perhaps catching Jeremy’s first MLB home run when he’s playing for the Orioles!
Thank you, Jeremy, for not only the ball, but for being so accommodating. One of Jeremy’s relatives told me prior to meeting him that as good a ballplayer as he is, he’s a better person. I can say that in addition to playing the game at a very high level, he’s also an athlete who treats his fans well. He certainly didn’t need to give me the ball, and I appreciate him giving away one of his bats to get the ball back. It means a ton.
As always, please check out The Ballpark Guide to help plan your upcoming trips and keep an eye on this blog as I gear up for my second road trip of the summer. You can also follow me on Twitter or send me an email to keep in touch.
What do I have in common with Barry Bonds, Albert Pujols, Ryan Braun and Jose Bautista? Admittedly, not much. But on the morning of June 13, I was lucky enough to tour the Sam Bat baseball bat factory and showroom and see how bats for many of the game’s top sluggers are made.
Just to bring you up to speed if you’re not familiar with this company, Sam Bat is a bat company based in Canada that was founded in early 1997. The company is most notable for producing the first Major League Baseball-approved maple bat and building the bat of choice for Bonds when he hit his 73rd home run in 2001 and when he chased down — and broke — Hank Aaron’s all-time home run record in 2007. If you want to read more about the company’s history, check out this link on the Sam Bat website.
Sam Bat is one of the top five bat manufacturers in professional baseball in terms of volume and in my opinion, produces some really sharp-looking bats. In 2011, the company produced bats for more than 100 MLB players and many more in Minor League Baseball, as well as the pro leagues in Australia and Mexico. (For the record, Pujols and Bautista don’t use Sam Bats currently, but Pujols did during his awe-inspiring rookie season and it was a Sam Bat in the hands of Bautista during his 54-home run season in 2010.)
Sam Bat is based in a small town called Carleton Place, just outside of Ottawa, Ontario, and I’ve been hoping for a tour for some time. That time finally came on June 13, and I met with company president Arlene Anderson for what would be a nearly two-hour tour and discussion. The company moved locations this past winter and since then, has been setting up its office while churning out bats every day.
It was exciting, for starters, just to be in an environment in which baseball is the focus. I started my tour in the office, where I met Arlene and talked baseball bats and baseball for a while. When you walk into the office, everything around you is baseball-centric, from the plaque on the wall that greets you soon after arrival …
… to the bats on display virtually everywhere you turn:
There were mounted clippings from the Ottawa Citizen newspaper, including this front page featuring Sam Bat founder Sam Holman with Barry Bonds:
And one with Arlene on the front cover soon after she took over the company:
There were lots of other cool things to see, including this figurine of Pujols. The photo isn’t great because of my reflection in it, but if you look carefully, you’ll see that Pujols’ bat is a Sam Bat:
The office also included products that aren’t even sold yet, and Arlene gave me the OK to take photos. So, it’s pretty safe to say you’re seeing these upcoming products for the first time right here. How about some Sam Bat eyeblack?
Or New Era snap-back caps with the Sam Bat logo?
After checking out the office, we went down to the factory part of the building. I’m not going to even try to explain how baseball bats are made; there are better resources online for that. But what I will do is share some behind-the-scenes photos that I think you’ll enjoy. The thing that struck me most about the factory is how the bats are truly made by hand. We’ve all see video clips of bat factories in which virtually the entire process is automated. That’s not even close to what goes on behind the doors at Sam Bat.
When the maple blanks come to the factory, they’re weighed, marked in two ways and stacked here:
One end of the blank is labeled with the number of the lot and after the blank is weighed, the weight is marked on the other end — up to three decimal places. The numbers you’ll see below actually mean, for example, 5.690 pounds or 5.694 pounds, etc.:
The blank goes through an amazing process en route to becoming a bat. It’s cut on a lathe …
(The bat you see above was actually being made specifically for Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier, who signed an $85 million contract extension a day earlier. How cool is that?)
After the bat is cut to its rough shape, it’s inspected carefully to ensure the wood doesn’t contain any blemishes or knots. If it does, the bat won’t be used. See the photo below of partially finished bats?
Well, many of these won’t be completed because their wood has a knot that can negatively affect the bat’s integrity. The knot doesn’t have to be big, either. See these tiny marks?
They’re enough to send this bat to the discard pile. If the bat passes these inspection tests, though, it’s sanded by hand …
… and weighed carefully throughout the sanding process on scales like this one:
(MLBers are very specific about their bats, as you might imagine. When they like a specific model, they want subsequent bats to have the same length, weight, handle, barrel and knob. That’s part of the reason weighing several times throughout production is important.)
You know the cup that’s cut into the barrel end of many bats? That’s done with this specialized drill bit:
The bat is then run through this machine which smooths the wood. High-quality bats are smooth like a baby’s skin, and it’s this machine that plays a huge role in that trait:
When each bat is ready to be painted, it’s painted by hand. For real. I watched a man hold a bat in one hand and paint the barrel with a paintbrush with the other. Awesome! The painted bats are then hung to dry:
(The bats hanging above are already finished, and just on display in this manner to show the hanging/drying process.)
Then, the distinctive bat logo is added to the middle of the bat, a Made in Canada sticker is placed on the knob and the bats are stacked here where they’ll await their finishing touches:
As you probably know, many players have their names stamped on the barrels of their bats. The bats laid out on this table had just been stamped:
On the day I visited, many of the bats that had just been stamped were for St Louis Cardinals prospect Pete Kozma, who was a 2007 first-round draft pick of the Cards and played 16 games for the club last season. He’s currently playing at the AAA level:
As is the case with the other steps in the Sam Bat-making process, the name stamps are done by hand with great care. Someone literally presses a stamp onto an ink pad and then presses the stamp onto the barrel of the bat. This room was my favorite place in the factory. See the shelf below? All these plastic bins were full of name stamps:
Over the years, Sam Bat has produced bats for a veritable who’s who of baseball. In addition to Bonds, Pujols, Braun and Bautista, other guys who’ve swung Sam Bats in the Big Leagues include Miguel Cabrera, Troy Tulowitzki, Prince Fielder, Matt Holliday, Rickie Weeks, Manny Ramirez, Carlos Gonzalez, Jason Bay and hundreds more. In fact, Sam Bat has a great gallery of many of their top players on their Facebook page. Check out the gallery and note the bat logo on each player’s bat.
On the table above where all the name stamps are stored, a few hundred were lying out, so I couldn’t resist taking a bunch of photos. Click on this photo to enlarge it so you can read all the names:
Here’s a close-up of one row that includes Tulowitzki, Victor Martinez and even pitcher Ted Lilly:
And check out this shot; I see Ethier, Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Santana, Justin Upton and notable Minor Leaguers Cutter Dykstra and Domonic Brown:
Ramirez, Nick Swisher and Travis Hafner:
Want to look at another photo? I know I do. Here are Soriano, Austin Jackson, Andy Laroche Carlos Guillen and Chris Young:
Some people who order bats (not necessarily MLBers, as the league has lots of guidelines about what’s stamped on bats) get custom slogans, including Who Dares Wins:
And Drop A Bomb:
One the bats are finished, they’re packaged up …
… and placed on a shelf until a shipment is ready to go out. This shelf was pretty bare on the day I visited because a huge order had just been shipped out:
The third destination on our tour was the showroom, which is still being set up. Even though it’s not completely done, it’s the type of place in which any baseball fan would just love to hang out. Of course, there are bats everywhere:
(See the cool bat racks? They’re made from each end of a bat.)
And more bats:
Check out this close-up shot of a barrel. It says RB8, which stands for Ryan Braun and eight, his jersey number:
Braun, who was the National League’s MVP in 2011, is arguably the most notable current Sam Bat user and the poster for his bat is one of the first things you notice upon entering the showroom:
I couldn’t resist checking out one of his bats. The bat I’m holding in the image below is the RB8:
Here’s a Bonds-signed lithograph commemorating his 500th home run:
And see this Under Armour ad featuring Soriano? Check out the logo on the bat he’s holding:
The entire tour was outstanding, and it was awesome to learn so much from Arlene. It’s not often that I find someone in Canada who’s as baseball obsessed as I am, but Arlene definitely knows the sport and had some great stories to tell, from texting back and forth about bats with Jose Canseco to getting phone calls and hearing, “This is Alfonso Soriano. I need more bats” on the other end of the line. (Arlene said that most players’ agents make bat inquiries, but Soriano has occasionally taken the matter into his own hands.)
Upon the completion of our tour, Arlene gave me a Sam Bat mini bat:
One of the long-sleeve T-shirts that the company gave out to players at Spring Training this year:
And an actual bat! Arlene took a photo of me with my new bat in the showroom:
This bat is the B1 model, which stands for Bonds 1. In other words, it’s the first prototype produced for Bonds. The bat is beautiful and I think you’ll agree that it’s a work of art:
Check out the hand-written notes in the cup at the end of the barrel. These numbers mean the bat is 33.5 inches long, 34.5 ounces (really, really heavy) and then there’s the date it was produced and the model number:
At the other end, there’s a Made in Canada sticker:
Here are the markings on the barrel:
And a close-up shot of the bat logo:
The handle end of the bat is stained in cherry stain, I believe, and it allows the grain to show through:
Sincere thanks to Arlene for taking time out of her busy day to show me around. The visit was absolutely outstanding. For more information on Sam Bat, check out the company’s website, Facebook page and Twitter feed. The website gives you the ability to order a ton of cool stuff, from game-ready bats to trophy bats, which are a little heavier but are otherwise identical to bats meant for use. Sam Bat also sells a line of Little League bats, and those cool New Era caps will be on sale soon. To get in touch with the company, email email@example.com.
The last game of my first road trip of the summer featured the Buffalo Bisons at Coca-Cola Field, but with a twist. The Bisons were playing the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees who are currently known as the Empire State Yankees. The Yankees’ home, PNC Field, is under major renovations, so the team is playing all its games on the road in 2012. Earlier on this road trip, I swung by PNC Field to document the renovations. So while the Bisons and Yankees were indeed playing in Buffalo, it was the Yankees who would be the “home” team for this game.
May 24 began with an Altoona Curve matinee game, and after I left Peoples Natural Gas Field, I faced a four-plus hour drive north to Buffalo. I didn’t break any speed records during the drive, as I often found myself in situations like this:
Yep, lots of the route is on small, winding roads, and I was stuck behind a convoy of slow-moving trucks for what seemed like half the journey. Eventually, though, I pulled into Buffalo and saw a familiar sight:
I visited Coca-Cola Field in 2010 for a Bisons game, which you can read about here. I was hitting this stadium for a second time for three reasons — the drive home from Altoona was too long to do in one chunk and because the Bisons are hosting the AAA All-Star Game this July, I wanted to check out the changes to the park. Finally, the team put in a ginormous video board before the 2011 season, so I wanted to check it out, too.
The Bisons were providing me with a media pass for this game, so I was looking forward to getting to the park early to explore. The team’s director of public relations, Brad Bisbing, was very accommodating before and during my visit. Thanks, Brad!
I got to Buffalo early enough that I wandered around the stadium for a few minutes, taking photos of a rather empty front pavilion:
And a look at the pillared design of Coca-Cola Field:
Then I went inside, picked up my media pass and enjoyed the press box air conditioning for a while. Here was the view:
And here’s a panorama from up there:
I also took a few minutes to explore the press area. There’s a big very nice press lounge, for example:
Batting practice was taking place, so I decided to head down to field level to check it out. As I made my way down, the concourses were still deserted:
(There’s something super cool about being one of the only people in a stadium.)
When I got to field level, it didn’t take long to notice the ads promoting the upcoming all-star game, including this one:
And as for that huge video board, check it out:
MLB Network’s Intentional Talk was airing as batting practice was taking place. How perfect could things get?
Well, a little better when I took a walk through the lower seats on the third base side and spotted this:
An International League ball to add to my collection!
From this area, I could see another big banner celebrating the all-star game:
Once I made it to the left field corner, I turned around and shot this panorama of the stadium:
By now, the Bisons were hitting so I went over to the first base side to take some pictures of Wally Backman. I’ve been a fan of his for a long time and it’s awesome to see him back in affiliated ball and at the AAA level. I hope he gets another shot in the Bigs before long. Here’s one of him hitting fungoes to the infielders:
And another of him talking to someone in the dugout:
I watched BP from this area for a while, and then decided to head beyond the outfield fence to check out the park from that angle. There’s an awesome multi-level party deck behind the right foul pole, and I stood in this area to take the following panorama:
If you ever visit Coca-Cola Field, I definitely recommend checking out the area behind the fence. Every time a Bisons player hits a long home run, the ball’s landing spot is marked on the asphalt. Former Bison Russell Branyan owns many of the marks, but a number of other players also make appearances:
Here’s the scene from ground level:
I watched BP for several minutes through the fence …
… and then checked out the player/staff parking lot just behind the picnic area, as it contained several more home run markers:
I had to laugh at this next photo. Check out how this new Cadillac is parked in harm’s way. Yikes:
After a while, I went back behind the first base dugout and took this funny photo. It’s a photo of a Tweet I’d just posted that included a photo of Backman:
And here’s another picture of the skip, for good measure:
From here, I documented my media credential, as I’ve been doing at each stop on this road trip:
Soon, batting practice wrapped up, so I took advantage of the downtime to check out the new team shop, which had moved since my last visit. There’s a giant wall of hats …
… and a bunch of AAA All-Star Game stuff for sale:
Eventually, the game began and I grabbed a seat on the third base side with a great view of the action. I had a good angle for some photos, including Yankees starter Adam Warren:
Buffalo starter Matt Harvey, who ended up getting the win:
Later in the game, I moved up behind home plate with this perfect view:
While I was in this area, I met up with Austin and Danny from the NYBisons blog. It was fun to meet some other MLBloggers and if you haven’t seen their blog full of all things Bisons, Mets and ballhawking, check it out. You can also follow them on Twitter.
Regardless of where I sat, the scoreboard was awesome to watch. Not only does it have a crystal-clear picture that I can’t capture with my camera, the gameday staff in Buffalo is really on the ball. Whenever there was a close play, such as this play at home, the scoreboard showed the play live:
I don’t know if I can recall another MiLB park doing this. And throughout the evening, the board provided a countdown to the all-star game:
After the game, I had a very short drive (about two minutes) to my hotel. I was staying at the Hyatt Regency Buffalo, and definitely recommend this hotel if you’re in town for a Bisons game. I’ve stayed here in the past, and it’s always outstanding. Plus, you can’t beat being so close to Coca-Cola Field. When other fans are waiting in traffic to get on the highway, you’re already checking into your hotel. Another huge perk to this hotel is that E.B. Green’s, one of the 10 best steakhouses in the U.S., is located on site. One of these days, I’m going to eat there. Every time I visit Buffalo, it just doesn’t work out time-wise.
When I arrived, I got the good news that the hotel had upgraded me to a suite one of the upper floors! The room itself was giant, with a full living room area, a separate bedroom area, two hallways and a huge bathroom. Here’s the living room area, where I hung out while catching up on some Twitter messages and enjoying room service:
Here’s the bedroom area …
… and the nighttime view of Buffalo out my window:
It was one of those hotel rooms that you wish you could enjoy for longer, but given that I was leaving early the next morning to drive home, I had to get to bed so I could get up at a decent hour. The morning came soon enough, and I packed my stuff, checked out, took a photo of the outside of the hotel …
… and punched “Home” into my GPS. It was an outstanding first road trip, but I’ll have plenty of additional exciting content coming soon!