Results tagged ‘ ballpark food ’
Monday morning began with a big decision to make. I got up at 6 a.m. and was working at my computer when I saw something on Twitter that caught my eye. The Cleveland Indians were playing a noon game to wrap up their series against Seattle. Hmmm. I planned to be in Akron for a 7 p.m. Aeros game, and Akron is just a short drive from Cleveland. It’d be very possible to do the Tribe game from noon to 3 p.m. and still get to Akron in plenty of time.
I sprang into action, getting changed and quickly getting my room packed up. But then I decided to put a little more thought into it. It was only day four of my 13-day road trip, and I didn’t want to burn myself out. Last spring, I did three straight days of two-city doubleheaders (two games in two cities) and was a zombie by the end. It was a fun trip, but so rushed that it was tough.
So, I regretfully decided to stay at my hotel, continue blogging and forget about visiting Progressive Field. After all, I’ll be there again next week when I visit the Social Suite!
I blogged till shortly before noon, and then drove into Cleveland to see Lake View Cemetery. I visited this enormous cemetery back in 2011, but wanted to check it out again. It’s the burial site of Ray Chapman, a former Indians player who’s one of only a couple MLBers to die after being hit by a pitch. Chapman is a member of the Indians Hall of Fame and has a big plaque in his honor at Heritage Park. I’m not normally one for visiting cemeteries, but I wanted to find his headstone and share it on here. The 285-acre graveyard is enormous, but because many of the notable people buried there are marked with signs along the road, I figured it’d be a piece of cake to find Chapman’s plot. Boy, was I wrong. I drove in circles for about half an hour until my GPS screen looked like an Etch A Sketch that needed shaking. The cemetery does have some neat sights, though. President James Garfield is buried there, as are John D. Rockefeller and Eliot Ness.
Afterward, I made the short trip to Akron and checked into my hotel. I was staying at the Courtyard Akron Stow, which is just outside Akron. The hotel is next to the highway, which makes accessibility a breeze. I was checked in and relaxing five minutes after pulling off the highway. Here’s the outside of the hotel:
And here’s the room that awaited me:
This room had two queen-sized beds, a sitting area, a desk and a plasma-screen TV. It was a perfect setup, too. I sat at the desk to work on my blog and turned to TV toward me to keep an eye on ESPN. Doesn’t get better than that. The staff I encountered was extremely warm and friendly and this is definitely the hotel I recommend if you’re visiting Akron to watch the Aeros — and especially if you’re coming from Cleveland the day before.
Remember how close I said the hotel is to the highway? Look at the view out my window:
(By the way, I could barely hear the highway and it certainly didn’t disrupt my sleep; there was a card in my room saying that if the highway disturbed me, I could request to move to the other side of the building — pretty accommodating, if you ask me.)
You can also see the nice courtyard outside my window. In terms of location, the Courtyard Akron Stow is just minutes from a million places to eat and shop. It’s within walking distance of a Skyline Chili and McDonald’s, and a very short drive to the Graham Square Plaza, which has a Walmart for snacks and a Subway, Applebee’s, Red Lobster, Chipotle and a ton more options. I actually stopped here on the way to the hotel and grabbed a Chipotle. You definitely have a long list of choices.
I spent about an hour in the room before loading up and heading to Akron for the evening’s game. Canal Park is located in downtown Akron, and while the team doesn’t have an “official” parking lot, parking is readily available. In fact, parking is free downtown in any lot after 6 p.m., which is perfect. I got to the area around 5 p.m., and parked in a garage that was free for the first hour. It can’t get any better than that — by the time the second hour rolled around, parking was free everywhere. The lot I picked was just across the street from the park, and when I emerged from the garage and crossed the street, I was looking at the back of the video board:
Canal Park has a nice brick and iron design, but looks inconspicuous from the street. In fact, if you’re just walking along the sidewalk, the park looks like storefronts in certain areas. But then, you come to a spot like this:
There are even a number of gates through which you can see the field. I didn’t spend long watching the action through the gates; the Aeros were providing me with a press pass and I found the admin office and got hooked up. Thanks, Adam Liberman!
After getting accredited, I went through the office to the concourse and got my first proper look at the inside of the ballpark:
Beautiful. There was still a good chunk of time until the gates opened, so I made a huge circuit of the entire park and would up in the right field bleachers to watch BP. The video board was just to my right, and it was outstanding:
Like in Cleveland, Akron’s board was huge, full of good info and really well run. One of the neat features in this area is the stacked bullpens. I’ve seen this idea a few times throughout my travels; Lehigh Valley’s Coca-Cola Park comes to mind. The bullpen on the left belongs to the home team and the one on the right, which is a few feet higher, is for the visitors:
As BP got close to finishing, I went down to field level and captured the visitor’s dugout:
Then, it was over behind home plate to take the photos to make up this panorama:
When the gates opened at 6 p.m., I walked over to the left field corner to see a thin stretch of the Ohio and Erie Canal, which runs directly behind the park. I’ve visited some parks that have nearby rivers, but this was neat to see and the area is really well kept:
I decided to go down to field level to watch the players warming up, and en route, a ball caught my eye:
Because the park was already open and there were fans milling around, I didn’t have a moral dilemma about adding this one to my collection.
This next photo might look as though one player’s sleeping, but I can assure you he was just getting his back cracked by a teammate:
I’ve said before that I love the subtle things you notice during ballpark visits. As a trainer was loosening up Giovanny Urshela’s legs, teammate Jesus Aguilar snuck over and gave Urshela a wicked zap on the backside with stretching band. Urshela reacted as anyone would — with a wild swing at his teammate. It was all in good fun, as the two guys were playing catch five minutes later.
I watched the first inning from behind home plate and pretty much had my choice of the seats. Canal Park wasn’t exactly hopping this evening. Here’s a look at the stands along the first base line in the first inning:
The lack of people didn’t concern me, as I don’t need a huge crowd to have a good time at the ballpark. Plus, I wanted to tackle the 3 Dog Night without making a scene. The 3 Dog Night is one of Canal Park’s signature dishes, although I was really impressed with the overall choices available at the park’s concession stands. Still, I wanted to eat the food that’s most notable, so I ordered one. It’s a hot dog stuffed into a split bratwurst stuffed into a split kielbasa. When the server handed it to me, I thought, Ugh. It was enormous and as I still had to load it up with sauerkraut, onions and mustard, it didn’t look very appetizing. Heck, it didn’t look much better once I’d loaded it up:
Here’s a photo with my baseball that puts the 3 Dog Night in perspective:
I retreated to the privacy of the bleachers to devour the meal, but sat stunned for a couple minutes with the beast on my lap. I had no idea how I would tackle it. Luckily, I had a plastic fork in my backpack and the availability of the piece of cutlery gave me the courage to begin. Unfortunately, I wasn’t impressed. Now, this isn’t to say don’t try the item — you might love it — but it didn’t do it for me. It was so big that I basically had to eat it in segments, and individually, those segments didn’t taste great. The hot dog tasted like a hot dog, but the brat and kielbasa just tasted like giant hot dogs. I gave it a valiant effort for a few minutes, but tapped out shortly thereafter. Next time I’m in Akron, I’ll be sampling something else.
Eating even a few bites of that meal meant that taking another walk was a good idea, so I went over to the third base seats to take some action shots. Here’s Bowie starter Tim Bascom, who went four innings and got a no-decision in his team’s 4-3 win:
And here’s a close play at first involving Bowie’s Brandon Waring and Akron’s Roberto Perez:
The game was entertaining; Akron led 1-0 but trailed 3-1 before scoring two runs in the bottom of the ninth to push the game to extras. Bowie, which managed just seven hits in 12 innings, went ahead for good in the 12th to get the win.
Next up, Columbus!
Outside of Toronto’s Rogers Centre, Progressive Field in Cleveland is the MLB park I’ve visited the most since I started traveling regularly to ballgames in 2010. I saw two games at the Prog in 2010 and one in 2011. (For a list of everywhere I’ve been, click here.) It’s one of the nicest parks I visited, and I was there again on May 19 for the matchup between the Indians and Mariners.
Pulling up to any park is an exciting part of the visit. I always park in the same garage when I visit Cleveland and when I walk down to street level, I’m presented with this view in a few seconds:
This, of course, is Progressive Field’s Gate C. It’s the most happening spot of the park before the gates open. Gates here open earlier than others and between the Bob Feller statue, the personalized bricks that make up the pavilion and the “Who’s on First” spelled out in giant concrete blocks, it’s a fun place to be.
Instead of going straight to the gate, I needed to walk to the ticket office to buy my ticket. Plus, I always enjoy a complete circuit of any park I visit. After walking down Rally Alley, which was still mostly empty given that it was about 2.5 hours before first pitch, I decided to walk across the grass area between the Prog and Quicken Loans Arena, as I haven’t in the past. During previous visits, this area has been hopping with fans and kids’ games. This time, it was quiet and I took this shot. Here, you can see the parking garage, bridge, Rally Alley, video board and Gate A:
Once I bought my ticket, I went to the front of the stadium, where I took this shot:
And this giant panorama:
Next, I wanted to check out the players’ lot. I’ve seen it before, but this time, I decided to walk up the driveway toward the lot …
… and see the cars and trucks up close. It’s always exciting to see a professional team’s lot, as it’s brimming with amazing rides. Some guys prefer the ruggedness of a truck:
While others prefer the smooth curves of an import — with the obligatory custom rims, of course:
Once I’d scouted out the scene through the fence for a few minutes, I continued on my way and resisted the urge to throw this switch next to the lot:
By the time I got back around to Gate C, it was open and I went straight to the right field bleachers. Actually, that’s the only place you can visit right away. The rest of the park is closed off initially, but opens soon enough. Cleveland was done its BP, but Seattle hadn’t begun. I took the opportunity to capture the bleachers and video board. It’s perhaps hard to officially call one video board the best, but I love this one. The look of it is incredible, but the team also does a great job of displaying interesting info on it throughout the game:
From a spot in the bleachers, I watched Seattle starter Brandon Maurer throw a bullpen session, and then went over to check out Heritage Park. This spot is definitely one of the coolest you’ll encounter at any ballpark and should earn several minutes of your time. I’m sure you could easily spend an hour there, especially if you’re interested in baseball history. Funny enough, I was the only person in Heritage Park for the five minutes I was there. I’ve never experienced this before, but it was neat. I shot a video that I’ll eventually edit and upload to YouTube, but for now, here’s a look at the park’s lower level:
Next, I went down the first base line and watched BP from next to Seattle’s dugout. As I glanced around, a sign caught my eye:
Yep, that’s the Indians Social Suite, where I’ll be spending the May 29 game. Excited is an understatement. It should be awesome.
It was still very early, so I decided to find something to eat. I’ve always been impressed with the food quality at the Food Network carts at Progressive Field, but for one reason or another, have never eaten at one. Time to change that. I visited the Food Network’s Hot Dog Bar cart and had an absolute winner of a meal:
It’s a spicy Italian sausage on a bun, loaded with bacon, onions, pulled pork, baked beans, sauerkraut and cheddar cheese. I could take or leave the chips on the side, but the meal was outstanding. The sausage was spicy and didn’t have that gross gelatinous texture that is common at ballparks. The toppings were plentiful and I was glad I retreated to the privacy of the upper deck to devour this beast. It took quite a while to eat, as I’m sure you can guess.
I resisted the urge to crawl under the seats and take a nap after eating it, and went down to field level. I wasn’t aware of the game’s starting pitchers until I got to the park, but when I saw Cleveland’s Justin Masterson and Seattle’s Felix Hernandez long tossing in the outfield, it made for an even more exciting visit. Hernandez was relatively close to the right field side, so I camped out there and watched him throw:
Once he retreated to the Seattle bullpen to warm up, I scurried back to the Heritage Park area, which is next to the Cleveland pen. From above, I watched Masterson make his pre-game throws:
I watched the first inning from the Home Run Porch in the left field corner, but decided to climb up to the upper deck to sit for an inning or two. What a perfect view:
King Felix was far from perfect, though. The Cleveland bats got to him early and often, and thanks to some clutch hitting and smart base running, the Tribe was up 6-0 by the time Hernandez left the game after the fifth. Masterson, meanwhile, was dominant. He ended up going seven innings with 11 strikeouts, while allowing just three hits.
After a few innings of relaxing, it was time to continue my tour. I wanted to check out the players’ parking lot from above, which is possible from the open concourse at the Prog. From up here, I could better see some of the vehicles that I couldn’t view on the ground. If you’re a car fan, you’ll appreciate this clump of rides here — how many hundreds of thousands of bucks are sitting there?
Before this visit, I made a vow to get to some parts of Progressive Field that I hadn’t previously seen. One of those spots was the pedestrian bridge that goes from the ballpark to the parking garage, so that’s where I headed next. From here, the view is spectacular. I’m surprised more people don’t hang out in this area. Granted, it’s a fair distance from home plate, but it provides a great view of everything:
While I was here, I used my camera’s self-timer to take this shot:
Next up, it was over to the team shop. The Indians have a small authentic game-used and autographed item kiosk outside the team shop, but in the back corner of the shop itself, I found a selection of stuff that commanded about 20 minutes of my time. Behold:
Game-used hats, helmets, bats, scorecards and more were part of this outstanding selection. I didn’t buy anything, but it was a blast to go through the items one by one and maybe I’ll pick something up when I’m back next week. Also interesting was the assortment of balls:
All the walking had me thirsty, so I decided to get one of my favorite ballpark staples — freshly squeezed lemonade. At the stand I visited, though, you could get strawberries added to your drink, which made for a great way to beat the heat:
(And add to the day’s growing calorie intake.)
I spent the rest of the game in the upper deck and I’ve gotta say, the Indians are sure exciting right now. They won this game and the following day’s game, and are 18-4 in their last 22 games. I can see why this city is pumped about Indians baseball. Hopefully they can keep things going and still be playing well when I visit again on May 29.
By the time I got to my car, I was exhausted. Road trips are awesome, but they’re not exactly conducive to sleeping a lot. Fortunately, I wasn’t staying too far away. I booked a room at the Hyatt Place Independence hotel, which is about seven miles south of Progressive Field. I stayed in Independence when I visited the area in 2011, and it’s definitely an ideal choice if you want to be close to the ballpark but not stuck downtown.
The hotel, which is where I am right now as I’m working on this blog post, is awesome. Here’s the outside:
It’s close to the highway, which means it’s a breeze to get here after the Indians game, but it’s quiet at the same time. It’s a few minutes away from a supermarket and a number of fast food restaurants, but if you want to sit down for your meal, a LongHorn Steakhouse and Applebee’s are less than a minute away. (For the record, I got the best of both worlds — some snacks at the supermarket up the street and a take-out dinner from Applebee’s.)
My room is outstanding, too. First of all, it’s enormous. There’s a kitchenette, desk and a sitting area with an L-shaped couch. (I’m a sucker for L-shaped couches.) The room also has a 42-inch TV, king-sized bed and upscale bathroom area. Here’s a view from the far side of the bed, looking toward the front door:
And here’s the sitting area, which is where I hung out to watch Sunday Night Baseball:
I definitely recommend this hotel if you’re visiting Cleveland for a ballgame. Every staff member I’ve met has been professional and friendly, and while I didn’t have enough time this visit to enjoy the hotel’s gym or pool, I checked them both out and they look great. You get a complimentary breakfast with your night’s stay and Wi-Fi is free, too. It’s the perfect choice for baseball fans.
And speaking of baseball, I’ve still got a lot of games to see on this road trip. Please give me a follow on Twitter to keep tabs on where I am and where I’ll be, and remember that visiting The Ballpark Guide helps support my travels. If you really enjoy hearing about my road trips, please consider making a small donation to keep my trips rolling along.
Way back in 2010, when I decided to visit as many MLB and MiLB parks as I could and start The Ballpark Guide, my first stop was in Rochester. (If you want to read my first ballpark visit blog entry, you can do so here. Just excuse the wonky formatting.) In the years since, I’ve thought fondly of Frontier Field and always looked forward to returning. I got back to Rochester for another visit last summer, but when I was planning my current 13-day baseball road trip, I couldn’t resist starting out at Frontier Field.
Leading up to this trip, there were many reasons to be excited about returning to Rochester. First, the overall selection and quality of food is the best I’ve encountered. Second, I think Frontier Field is beautiful; it’s one of my favorite places to watch a ballgame. Of course, before I got to kick back in the sun and enjoy something tasty to eat, I had to cross the border. Ugh:
It’s a long weekend back in Canada, so the traffic was ridiculous. I sat within sight of the border crossing for 45 minutes before getting through, and then it was clear sailing all the way through to Rochester. If you’ve read this blog for some time, you’ll likely recall that I like seeing a few sites in each city I visit, time permitting. One spot I wanted to check out this time is Rochester’s High Falls, which looked cool online and isn’t too far from Frontier Field. Although it’s not exactly Niagara Falls, it’s a neat scene and worth visiting when you’re in town:
In fact, it’s just a short walk from the ballpark. Here’s the view from the opening of the walkway leading toward the bridge over the falls. As you can see, the ballpark is in the distance:
I always wander around whenever I get to a ballpark, and even though this was my third trip to Frontier Field, I stopped to take this panorama by the front gate:
I think you’ll agree that it’s a beauty of a ballpark. One neat feature that I hadn’t noticed in the past — or perhaps that’s new — is some old seats from, I’m guessing, Silver Stadium:
Silver Stadium was the home of the Red Wings from 1929 to 1996. In fact, I plan to check out the site of the old stadium today before tonight’s game.
As usual, I took a walk around the perimeter of the ballpark but this time, I didn’t go nuts with photos. I’ll just share this one:
I’m a sucker for modern brick parks, as I think they do an awesome job of paying tribute to the history of the game. The wrought-iron bars and old-style lights really give you an feel of what a park might’ve looked like several generations ago.
During this visit, the Red Wings were providing me with a media pass, so I wanted to get in early and check everything out. A quick thanks to Tim Doohan for the pass; Tim was with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs last season, and provided me with a pass during my visit there, too. Instead of going straight up to the press box, I went down to field level and saw that Rochester had just started hitting:
As you’ve seen in the past, I enjoy trying to collect a baseball from each park I visit. Getting in early means that I technically could’ve snagged a dozen BP home runs and foul balls, but I didn’t think that was very fair. So, in a move that might make you ballhawks’ heads explode, I tossed balls back onto the field when I found them. While walking through the seats and across the grass behind the outfield fence, I came across several balls. Some were partially hidden:
And others were easy to see:
Watching BP is one of my favorite experiences in baseball, and I prefer it at the minor league level. Instead of standing in a crowd of screaming fans at an MLB park, MiLB parks are virtually deserted during BP. I always make a point of sitting near the field and just taking it all in. One of the cool things about being in the park before it opens is seeing sights you wouldn’t otherwise see. For example, here’s a member of the visiting Durham Bulls hanging out with Red Wings pitcher Caleb Thielbar during BP:
And here’s Rochester manager Gene Glynn talking on his cellphone in the stands:
Back to the ballpark itself: As you no doubt know if you’ve been to Rochester, it’s impossible to miss the Kodak building, which looms just across the street:
Much of the area beyond the outfield fence is closed off during games, but given that it was still open, I walked through the grass and watched some BP with this view:
The area around the Rochester bullpen was lined with lilacs, and I thought this made for a neat photo:
After walking around the entire park and watching a lot of BP, I decided to go up to the press box to check out the view:
It wasn’t long before I noticed these guys standing below me:
What the heck? I began to see more and more guys dressed like ballplayers from days of yore, so I quickly went back down to field level and it felt like I’d stepped onto the set of Field of Dreams. It was an odd juxtaposition. When I looked the left, this is what I saw:
But when I looked to my right, here was the scene:
When the Bulls wrapped up BP, it became clear that these old-timers were getting ready to play a game. Their umpire, who doubled as an announcer for the curious fans who entered the ballpark shortly after the historic game began, provided some clarity. The players were playing a short exhibition game with 1866 rules — no gloves, underhand pitching from 45 feet and no balls and strikes. It was fascinating. When the umpire called a batter to the plate, he yelled “striker to the line!” The umpire, dressed in black, is below:
As much as the 1866 version of the game was different, it was neat to see how much today’s game is similar — despite its evolution. I think guys today are thankful for the gloves, though. Imagine fielding a line drive with your bare hands.
Just as the game was wrapping up, I returned to the press box to meet up with Chris Fee. I got to know him a bit on Twitter a couple years ago when he was writing for the Bus Leagues Baseball website, and now he’s doing a bunch of Red Wings/Twins stuff for Twins Daily. It’s always neat to finally meet someone you’ve conversed with online, and Chris is a good guy. Give his Twitter account a follow and you’ll be glad you did. We blabbed baseball for maybe 15 minutes before I went back to field level to watch the warmups, which had begun after the clock struck 12 on the 1866 game. Here are a couple Bulls you’ll probably recognize:
That’s Shelley Duncan, who’s played more than 300 games in the bigs and Tim Beckham, the 2008 first-overall draft pick.
I wanted to take another full lap around the field before the game began in a few minutes, but the outfield was blocked off. As I turned to head back toward the third base line, a baseball caught my eye. It was stuck in the fence directly behind the visitor’s bullpen. Since the gates had been open for nearly an hour, I didn’t feel bad about grabbing the ball.
Once the game began, it didn’t take me long to seek out something to eat. I consider two items from Frontier Field as among the 10 best things I’ve ever eaten on my travels, but I was determined to branch out on this visit. I returned to the Red Osier concession stand but instead of getting the delicious sandwich I enjoyed last year, I got the R.O.B.B. sandwich — double roast beef on a salt and caraway seed bun with au jus sauce and plenty of horseradish:
It was absolutely delicious and I can safely say it’ll crack the top 10 when I redo the list in the off-season. Wow!
As for the game, I was especially excited to see prospect Wil Myers. Prior to the season, he was ranked fourth overall by Baseball America and MLB, and it’s always neat to see a top prospect in person. I grabbed a seat behind home plate with this view:
The view, however, was better than Myers’ results throughout the game. He went just 1-for-5 and left three runners on base.
One guy who isn’t struggling is Wings first baseman Chris Colabello. He went 2-for-4 to boost his average to .350. He’s also got 11 HRs, 31 RBIs and an OPS of 1.059:
By the fifth inning, I can’t stay I was hungry, but I was hoping to find something else to eat. I don’t normally eat desserts at ballparks, but I’m always intrigued by Frontier Field’s crepe stand, so I decided to get an order of crepes with ice cream, fresh strawberries and blueberries and whipped cream:
Again, absolutely incredible! It didn’t taste like ballpark food; if I’d received it at a decent restaurant, I would’ve been more than happy.
Once dessert was down, I snapped this shot of the nighttime scene and the Kodak building in the background:
And then moved behind home plate where I enjoyed this view for the rest of the game, which Rochester won 11-6:
Funny thing about baseball — Rochester cruised through much of the game, leading 11-0 at one point. In the eighth, Durham’s offense went nuts and scored six runs. By the end of the once-lopsided contest, the Bulls had outhit the Wings 12-11.
Yesterday’s visit just reaffirms how great Frontier Field is. I’m already looking forward to getting back there later today for the Pepsi Max Field of Dreams game. It features a bunch of retired MLB legends, and promises to be entertaining.
I’ve said before that there’s nothing like the first ballpark visit of the season, and while that’s true, I’m always extra pumped for my first extended road trip of the year. Already in 2013, I’ve been able to hit four games — a doubleheader at Syracuse’s NBT Bank Stadium and a pair of Blue Jays games at Rogers Centre. If you click this link, you can see a list of everywhere I’ve been and also bring up my blog entry about each visit. Those trips were the appetizer to the main course that is my May road trip, which begins on Friday.
I’ve taken road trips in May for the last couple years. In 2011, I visited nine parks in 11 days and in 2012, I went on a grueling seven-park, four-day trip. The schedule I’ve come up with for this year will be my longest road trip to date but one that is sure to be awesome.
Here it is:
Friday, May 17: Durham Bulls at Rochester Red Wings
Rochester’s Frontier Field is the first ballpark I visited after starting The Ballpark Guide in 2010, and while the park has sentimental value to me, it’s also one of my favorite places to watch a game. Geographically, it’s a logical starting point for this trip, and I can’t resist stopping there again.
Saturday, May 18: Pepsi Max Field of Dreams game in Rochester
As you’ll see, I’ll end up spending a couple days in Rochester and will be lucky to attend the Pepsi Max Field of Dreams game. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a number of MLB legends up close. Some of the game’s all-time greats, including Johnny Bench, Wade Boggs, Rickey Henderson, Trevor Hoffman, Reggie Jackson, Pedro Martinez, Mike Schmidt and Ozzie Smith will be playing. As excited as I am to see those guys, I’m most excited to see Fred McGriff, who was my first favorite ballplayer back when he played for Toronto in the ’80s.
Sunday, May 19: Seattle Mariners at Cleveland Indians
I’ve been to Cleveland’s Progressive Field three times since 2010, and consider it one of my favorite places to visit. But, as you’ll see later in this post, this won’t be my only chance to see the Indians at home.
Monday, May 20: Bowie Baysox at Akron Aeros
I’ve seen Bowie play at home and Akron play on the road, but haven’t yet visited Akron’s Canal Park. I don’t know much about the home of the Aeros, but do know about one notable concession item. The Three Dog Night is a hot dog stuffed in a bratwurst stuffed in a kielbasa, all loaded on a bun with sauerkraut and mustard. I guess I know what I’ll be having for dinner.
Tuesday, May 21: SWB RailRiders at Columbus Clippers
My visit to Columbus’ Huntington Park will be for a 10:35 a.m. game, which means May 21 will be an early morning. More importantly, Columbus will be the eighth International League team I’ll have seen play at home.
Wednesday, May 22: West Michigan Whitecaps at Dayton Dragons
It’s been a couple years since I ventured into Midwest League territory; back in 2011, I got to five Midwest League parks. I’m sure that Craig Wieczorkiewicz, the Midwest League Traveler, will have some tips for me about Dayton’s Fifth Third Field. (Coincidentally, I’ve also been to Toledo’s Fifth Third Field and West Michigan’s Fifth Third Ballpark.)
Thursday, May 23: Pawtucket Red Sox at Louisville Bats
Louisville promises to be an exciting stop on my road trip. In addition to seeing the Bats play at Louisville Slugger Field, I also plan to visit the Louisville Slugger Museum and, as a huge boxing fan, the Muhammad Ali Center.
Friday, May 24: Chicago Cubs at Cincinnati Reds
Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park looks like an awesome place to watch a game, and I’m looking forward to catching the Cubs in town for a pair. As an added bonus, this game will have my first fireworks show of the 2013 season and pre- and post-game hitting by the Long Haul Bombers. (Look ‘em up.)
Saturday, May 25: Chicago Cubs at Cincinnati Reds
Whenever I’m visiting a new MLB park, I like to catch two games, if possible. I’ll spend my second Reds game checking out whatever I missed the day earlier, and I’m excited to get an MLB Network backpack, which is the giveaway of the day.
Sunday, May 26: Fort Wayne TinCaps at Bowling Green Hot Rods
Visiting Fort Wayne’s Parkview Field is one of the best ballpark experiences I’ve had so far, but this time, I’ll be seeing the TinCaps on the road in another Midwest League showdown. The Hot Rods are managed by Jared Sandberg, who playfully heckled my photo-taking exploits last summer. The team also includes big-time prospect Taylor Guerrieri, who I saw pitch last year at Fenway Park.
Monday, May 27: Kannapolis Intimidators at Lexington Legends
The Legends were a focal point of Katya Cengel’s book Bluegrass Baseball, which I read over the winter. Her chapters on the South Atlantic League franchise painted a picture of the club and the ballpark, and I’m excited to check both out in person. Lexington will be the fourth SAL city I’ve visited since 2011.
Tuesday, May 28: Greensboro Grasshoppers at West Virginia Power
And speaking of the South Atlantic League, I’ll visit Charleston, WV, to watch the Power host Greensboro on the penultimate day of my road trip. I’ve seen Greensboro once before (back in June of 2011 in a very memorable game) but have never seen the Power. I like the look of the team’s concession menu and the park looks great, too.
Wednesday, May 29: Cincinnati Reds at Cleveland Indians
Why am I making a second stop in Cleveland on this trip? Two words: Social Suite. The Indians have invited me to watch their May 29 game from the Social Suite, which is a Wi-Fi-equipped suite in which a handful of baseball fans and social networking types use social media to share their experiences. I’m absolutely pumped (and honored) to be checking out Progressive Field from this vantage point and will have more details as they become available. It should be a real highlight and I’m considering live blogging the day to share the entire adventure with you. Anyone else watched a game from the Social Suite? I’d love to hear your recollections.
So, a pretty good-looking two weeks, huh? And when the sun sets on my road trip …
… I’ll have seen 13 games in 10 parks in 13 days. This means that by the end of the road trip, I’ll have seen 75 games at 49 parks since starting The Ballpark Guide in 2010. Wow!
I’ll be tweeting through the trip and blogging as close to daily as I can manage. I’ll be staying in some neat hotels and checking out some cool tourist attractions, too. To keep on top of my travels, please follow me on Twitter. And if you enjoy following my adventures or have used The Ballpark Guide to improve your baseball road trip experiences, please consider making a small donation to support my trips. Otherwise, I really appreciate your hits on my website and blog.
Four more sleeps ….
With the exception of being away from home, I love everything about my baseball road trips. The ballparks and games themselves are the focal point as I continue to build The Ballpark Guide, but my trips are often full of other fun adventures, like doing interesting touristy things and staying in cool hotels. I’ve driven to and from Toronto countless times, so when I got up at 6 a.m. yesterday to get ready for my second baseball game of 2013, I decided I wanted to get to the city quickly, rather than do some sightseeing along the way. Why?
I can’t deny that I was excited for last night’s game, but I was super excited to check out my hotel. I love staying in hotels, and from the minute I booked a two-night stay at Toronto’s Westin Harbour Castle, I was pumped to check in. I’ve heard about this hotel for years and have always heard it to be a prime spot for baseball fans. Now that I’m here, I can definitely confirm this sentiment.
The Westin is one of Toronto’s nicest hotels and has a prime location right on the shore of Lake Ontario. It’s just a short walk from a number of downtown attractions, which is ideal because parking downtown is expensive and driving downtown can be a hassle, given traffic and the permanent construction in the city’s core. It was easy to find my hotel, though, and I’m rather directionally challenged. It’s just a couple minutes off the highway and before long, I was parked and checking in. As far as the nearby attractions, they’re too many to list extensively. If you’re into fine dining, for example, consider the Westin’s restaurants or take just a short walk to hit dozens of area eateries. There are also at least two grocery stores about five minutes away if you want to load up on snacks for your room. One thing I did before visiting was check out the hotel on Google Maps, and just scroll around a bit to see what’s in the area. If you want to do the touristy thing, the CN Tower, Hockey Hall of Fame and all sorts of shops are just a short walk away.
I was told that I’d enjoy my room, but WOW — I didn’t have any idea it’d be this great! I’m on one of the upper floors and have a lake-facing view. Here’s a shot out my window, although the photo hardly does the view justice:
You’re looking at a ferry taking people over to the Toronto Islands, a group of islands just a stone’s throw from the city’s downtown. As a side note, I went over to the islands once — during a Grade 8 trip to Toronto with my school band to play the anthems at the SkyDome. The spot that we boarded the ferry is directly below my window here at the Westin. And here’s another side note that baseball fans will enjoy — in 1914, Babe Ruth hit his first professional home run at Hanlan’s Point Stadium, a ballpark on the island. He was playing Double-A ball at the age of 19 and was still a half-decade away from tearing up Major League Baseball.
Most of one side of my room is made up of windows, so I truly have a panoramic view of the lake and islands. If I look out the window on the right side of the room, I can see Centre Island and Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport:
I’m pretty pumped about the view, but the room itself is outstanding, too. But before I get to the room itself, check out what was waiting for me when I got in:
Yes, it’s a welcome note AND a mini baseball bat filled with baseball-shaped candy! I should explain — since booking this trip late last week, the Westin has been following me on Twitter and knows about my love of baseball. How cool is it that they’d make the effort to find a baseball-themed welcome gift for me? It’s outstanding, but it wasn’t the only thing waiting for me. On top of a nice platter of fresh snacks, there was this:
My room is about 400 square feet, which is significantly larger than my first apartment. Since I’m staying here two nights, I’ll get to more details about the room and the hotel in my next blog post — I’ve still got some exploring to do!
The gates at Rogers Centre open 90 minutes before first pitch, so I figured I wanted to get to the stadium shortly before 5 p.m. I’d have time to walk around and take some photos, buy my ticket and get a good spot in line. First, though, I toured around my floor of the Westin and looked out the different windows to get varying views of the city. Hockey and basketball fans will like this one:
As you can see, I’m right across the street from Air Canada Centre, which is home of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors. What a view! Soon enough, I made the short walk over toward Rogers Centre. The walk took about 15 minutes; you could do it in less time, as much of that time was spent waiting for street lights to change. It’s a nice walk and if you’re new to the city, gives you the opportunity to walk past the ACC and Toronto’s historic Union Station, as well as walk in the shadow of the CN Tower.
I’ve been to Rogers Centre virtually every year since it opened in 1989, I believe. And regardless of how many times I visit, it’s always exciting to approach the stadium. After crossing the pedestrian bridge over the railway tracks, I looked up to see the stadium’s famous statue called The Audience. (Side note — it’d be nice to see some statues of Blue Jays legends outside the stadium, too.) Whenever I see this statue …
… I can’t help but recall visiting Rogers Centre (then known as SkyDome) in 1989 for my birthday party. I remember thinking the statue, for whatever reason, was the coolest and funniest thing ever.
There weren’t many people around when I bought my ticket shortly before 5 p.m. and, as usual, I headed toward Gate 11, which is where I like to enter the stadium. Once there, I took my usual ticket shot:
I often enjoy taking panoramas of the outside of ballparks, but at Rogers Centre, it’s very difficult to get far enough away and still have a clear view. I kept walking backward and as you can see here, I still couldn’t get far enough away to get the entire height of the park in my frame:
After embarrassingly tripping on a step (the perils of walking backward while looking through a camera, I guess), I looked to my right and Gregg Zaun walked right past me! He played 16 years in the majors, including a stint in Toronto, and has worked for years as the studio analyst during Jays games. I didn’t want to run ahead of him and snap a photo, so I took this one:
I’ve zoomed in to show his World Series ring, which he won in 1997 with the Marlins:
How do people feel about the Jays current logo? I love it. I wasn’t a huge fan of the last couple incarnations, so it’s fun to see a logo that I enjoy so much adorning all sorts of things around the park, including many light posts:
The half-hour or so that I had to wait in line went quickly, and as soon as I entered the stadium, I made a quick turn to my left to head down to the left field corner. This is the route I always take when the gates open; sometimes you can find a batting practice ball here, or just hang out in hopes of catching a ball. I, however, wanted to get an early shot of the team’s new 200 Level Outfield Patio, which has been featured repeatedly on the team’s broadcasts:
I’ll have more photos of it later on, but it’s the structure with the railings between the Budweiser and Rogers logos. It’s free for anyone to enter, has nearby bars and a souvenir stand and, most importantly, has three levels of standing room. I figured that given its new popularity, it would be packed during the game. It was, but it was never packed enough that I couldn’t get a spot when I tried.
I often try to get a batting practice ball by hanging out in the 100 Level outfield seats or in the corners at field level. This time, I wanted to go up to the less-crowded 200 Level, so I made the quick jaunt up the dark ramp:
Seriously, how dark is this area? If you didn’t know better, you’d swear you were somewhere you shouldn’t be. I know this photo is less than thrilling, but I wanted to show how dark things are without using my flash. Things were brighter and more exciting when I got up to the 200 Level seats, and I took a moment to grab this shot of myself with the White Sox batting practice in the background:
I had to be quick; as I hoped, the balls were flying into the 200 Level fairly consistently. While I was standing in this area, I was thinking how I’ve been to Rogers Centre so many times. I don’t want to have my blog posts seem formulaic or mundane, so I decided I should try to take some shots of things I haven’t previously shared. As I looked around, the phone in the Toronto bullpen caught my eye:
I also get a kick out of these three seats; I always seem them from afar but this might be the first time I’ve stood right next to them:
And speaking of being next to things, check out the view to my immediate left:
Yep, it’s the new standing room area I mentioned earlier. As for Chicago’s BP, catcher Tyler Flowers was putting on an impressive display. He crushed several balls into the 100 Level seats, and before long, blasted this one into the seats just to my right:
Adam Dunn was putting on an even better performance. He was routinely hitting 200 Level bombs and even hit a handful off the facing of the fourth level; I specifically noticed one hit between the Cito Gaston and Pat Gillick names in the photo below. Talk about power:
I decided not to hang out and try to get more balls. I was pleased to get one, so I made a beeline for the new standing room area to my left. I’ve got to say that it’s absolutely awesome. I’ve ranted about the ushers at Rogers Centre in the past, but those watching over this new area seemed really proud to welcome fans to check things out. I took a number of shots, but I’ll share just a few for now. Here’s one taken through the giant “B” in the Budweiser sign:
And here’s one that shows the layout of the area before it got crowded:
As you can see, there are three levels, tables and a number of sections have wooden bars for your food and drinks, or just to lean on. It’s a perfect spot.
The 200 Level has a number of cool additions since I last visited this part of the park. I was excited to see two bars named after former stars Roberto Alomar:
And Joe Carter, although I cringe when I see how they’ve left out a crucial comma:
After making one complete circuit of the 200 Level, I went down the ramp to check out the team shop. As I mentioned last year during my Rogers Centre visits, the new Memorabilia Clubhouse section is absolutely amazing. It’s full of game-used and game-issued stuff, and the only disappointment was not seeing the club’s two World Series trophies, which were on display here last year.
There was a cool assortment of game-used balls for sale:
And other neat things, too. Did you know that for just $800, you can get a broken Jose Bautista bat?
Since I was on the 100 Level, I decided to head over to the Sportsnet studio to watch the pre-game show with Jamie Campbell and Gregg Zaun:
I watched most of the show and from there, went over to the first base side during the anthems. Here, I caught my first glimpse of new Blue Jay Munenori Kawasaki, who was called up to fill in at shortstop with Jose Reyes hurt. Kawasaki has quickly become a popular figure in Toronto for his hustle and for bowing after plays:
(More on him later.)
I spent the first inning standing in this general area, where I took the photos to make up this panorama:
But by now, my stomach was growling. It’d been a long day and I was ready for something filling. I toured around for a bit, noting the new (and delicious-smelling) food options, but caved and went with my favorite thing to eat at Rogers Centre, the chicken wings at Quaker Steak & Lube:
After buying my food, I often grab one of the many folding chairs stacked up around the 100 Level and eat while watching the game through the railing. It’s a perfect strategy if you have a 500 Level ticket, as there’s no way you’ll make it up to your seat while your food is still remotely warm. I’ve done this for years, but this year, I was dismayed to notice that the chairs are locked up — see the padlock?
As for the wings, they were delicious and very meaty, as always. I got my usual flavour, Louisiana Lickers … and ordered it in my usual way: “The Louisiana one, please.” I wonder how many people actually say “lickers.” I stood to eat dinner behind the 100 Level outfield seats and after I was finished, noticed that the Jays new-look team has apparently brought all species out to Rogers Centre:
No big deal; just a guy in a bear costume, enjoying the game. My next stop was the outfield standing room area again, which was considerably more crowded than last time I stopped by:
It wasn’t difficult to find an open spot on the third level, however, and I lucked out because this screen was directly above me:
Game broadcasts nowadays are so good that it’s easy to feel at a slight loss for information when you attend games in person. Being able to watch the live game while consulting the screen for stats was baseball heaven!
The view from this area is really good. Photos always make things look a million miles away, but here’s the panorama I took from the area:
Late in the game, I decided to watch an inning or two from the concourse behind home plate, partly to watch Kawasaki. He’s a slap hitter who reminds me very much of Ichiro — and it’s not just that they’re both from Japan. Both have an insane dedication to stretching and calisthenics. Both guys routinely stretch between pitches while at bat and while in the field. At one point, the Jays showed a video of Kawasaki performing a handstand during pre-game stretching. As for the stretching, see what I mean?
Kawasaki had an outstanding at bat while I stood behind home plate. With two strikes, he fouled off at least five pitches until he drew a walk. (He finished 2-for-2 with a walk to boost his batting average to .364.) My favorite picture of him is this one:
Even though I’d bought a 500 Level ticket, I hadn’t quite made the trek up to the nosebleed seats just yet. In the bottom of the sixth, and with the Jays getting pummeled 5-0, I went up to the 500s and had this view of the video board …
… and this view of the field:
Remember my quest to find new things to photograph? I’ve never noticed it, but the foul poles at Rogers Centre (which are actually netting) are held in place by giant, crane-like arms:
I spent up until the middle of the ninth inning up in the 500s, and then slipped down to the 100 Level concourse to watch the Jays’ last at-bat. The Sox had tacked on two more runs to make the final score 7-0, which drops Toronto’s record to 6-9. What a disappointing start to the season. Fans are already panicking, and while that’s a little premature, it’s frustrating to see the team faring so poorly early on.
Nevertheless, I’ll be back at Rogers Centre for the final game of the series against the White Sox, and I can’t wait. I’ll be blogging about the game, and more about my stay at the Westin Harbour Castle, in the next day or two. If you’ve recently found this blog, please consider following me on Twitter to keep up to date with all my road trip plans and visit The Ballpark Guide. If you’re planning a baseball road trip of your own, my website has a ton of tips to help you make the most of your ballpark visits. If you find that my website has saved you a few bucks or increased your enjoyment of the game — or if you just enjoy reading about my travels, please consider making a small donation to help the cause. Thank you!
Opening Day is the day that most baseball fans circle on their calendars each April, but for me, the day I think about the most is the day of my first live game. When I started The Ballpark Guide in 2010, my first game didn’t come till July. In 2011 and 2012, it was May. This year, however, I wanted to get a game under my belt early, as I’ve got some great trips planned for the spring and summer.
For the last month or so, I’ve been eyeing yesterday’s Syracuse Chiefs doubleheader at NBT Bank Stadium against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. As I wrote in my previous blog post, the Chiefs are the closest MLB/MiLB team to where I live and since visiting in 2010 for a game, I’ve wanted to get back to the Cuse. And though the forecast was calling for a high of about 46 degrees and a chance of rain, I decided to chance it — after all, 46 degrees and a little rain is better than the ice and snow back home, right? Fortunately, I didn’t see more than a few drops of rain on the drive and by the time I got to the ballpark, I was pleased to see this sign:
(It’s much better than the sign I saw when I tried to watch the Chiefs in 2011.)
After parking, I decided to walk away from the stadium to take some shots of this little train platform, appropriately named Chiefsville:
I also wanted to check out the far end of the giant parking lot in front of NBT Bank Stadium. As I walked across the lot, I turned around and took this panorama:
And then I took this shot:
Why? Well, before NBT Bank Stadium opened in 1997, the Chiefs played at MacArthur Stadium, which was located on this site. Minus a three-year window, it was home to the Chiefs between 1934 and 1996, so you can imagine the long list of stars who played here. Although there isn’t a plaque marking the area (at least there isn’t one that I noticed), it’s a neat spot to visit.
Next, I went up to the pavilion in front of the home plate gate to capture the park’s new sign and name:
The NBT Bank Stadium name is new — the name was changed in the off-season from Alliance Bank Stadium. As I’ve said before, I love the look of this ballpark from the outside. I’m a sucker for brick ballparks and the turret concept is cool:
Although I was tempted to grab my media pass and dash inside the park to wander around, I decided to take a little more time outside. I wandered to the corner of the parking lot beyond the right field corner of the field, followed a winding path up to a set of train tracks, wandered along the tracks and balanced on a rail while I took this photo:
OK, time to get inside. I picked up my media pass (thanks again, Chiefs!) and stopped to look at a historical display honoring a bunch of former Chiefs …
… before I hopped in the elevator and rode up to the concourse level. It was just after noon, and with nearly an hour until the gates opened and nearly two hours until first pitch, the concourse was very quiet:
In fact, so too was the seating bowl:
Obviously, with a doubleheader on the schedule, batting practice wasn’t in the cards, and with the cold weather, only a handful of guys were out on the field — all from the visiting Lehigh Valley IronPigs side. You can barely see them in this panorama:
While I was walking around, I noticed a familiar name on a sign — the Ramada Syracuse is not only the hotel I’d visit after the game, but it’s also the official hotel of the Chiefs. I’ll have much more on the hotel later in this blog post, but for now, it was cool to see this sign:
As I continued to walk around and take photos, I got a Tweet from the Chiefs, who’d been Tweeting with me over the last week or so leading up to my visit. The person behind the team’s Twitter account, Desiree Ellison, said she’d give me a tour of the park! Desiree works in the team’s marketing and promotions department, and as I soon found out, she’s a big-time baseball nerd — and I mean that in a completely complimentary way. (It takes one to know one, right?!)
Anyway, the first thing we did on our tour was go out on the field, which is something that never gets old:
We went into the Chiefs dugout where I snapped this picture of the helmet rack:
And, after turning 180 degrees, I took this shot showing manager Tony Beasley’s view:
Then, it was down the third base line to the home side’s bullpen …
… and even the sod farm behind the outfield fence. (I’ll spare you the photo I took of sod growing, but I thought it was neat.) Next, we went into the bowels of NBT Bank Stadium to see the indoor batting cages, which were quiet:
And then up to the press box, which has this view:
See the video board?
It was installed last year and I think you’ll agree it’s a huge upgrade from the board that was in use when I visited Syracuse in 2010.
The tour continued to the second deck, where Desiree showed me her favorite vantage point:
I’d use this spot throughout much of the game, as you’ll read soon enough. The tour was awesome; it’s always impressive to not only learn some interesting facts about a park, but also wander through some behind-the-scenes areas. Thanks so much, Desiree!
After the tour, I decided to check out the team’s souvenir shop, which is notable for having a working train ride the rails above your head:
There was a bit of a group of people in front of me, and after I snapped the photo of the train, I looked down and realized I was standing face to face with Chiefs (and former Toronto Blue Jays) pitcher Jeremy Accardo! He was signing autographs in the team shop so I got him on my game program:
By this time, both teams were out on the field, so I jetted down to field level to take in the sights. I like this shot of Syracuse’s Yunesky Maya, who started game one, warming up in the bullpen:
As I said earlier, it was a chilly day. In the sun, it was all right, but in the shade, it was very cold. It didn’t take long to notice how different guys were keeping warm:
But Syracuse infielder Mike Costanzo had a more traditional method of keeping his hands warm:
I spent the first inning in the lower seats along the first base line with this view:
As you can see, the park wasn’t exactly full, but on a cold day that coincided with the final round of the Masters, some people might’ve chosen to stay at home on the couch. (Mini rant: The Chiefs are the closest affiliated team to my home and if they were closer, I’d be at the ballpark all the time. Support your home team, people! There’s nothing better than live baseball.)
By now, it was after 2 p.m., I’d been up since 6 a.m. and at the park since 11 a.m. I was hungry. Desiree recommended the Pops Special hot dog, so that’s what I went with. It’s a hot dog loaded with mac and cheese, and while I had a similar item back in 2011 at Nationals Park, I was anxious to try it:
The hot dog itself was absolutely the best dog I’ve ever eaten at a ballpark, and while the mac and cheese was a nice touch, it wasn’t quite as flavorful as I’d have liked. Still, it was a delicious meal and it’s something I heartily recommend. I neglected to pick up any utensils, so I ate it without — it’s a good thing the upper deck was so quiet, as I would’ve undoubtedly disgusted any fans around me. Seriously, though, it was very tasty. The NBT Bank Stadium dog was good enough that I’d be interested to eat a plain dog with traditional toppings.
After eating, I moved to my right a little and hung out on a second-level group deck that Desiree recommended and that was empty during the game. I can’t argue that it’s a prime spot — especially given that foul balls were flying in and around this area during the first inning alone, before I got up there. From here, you’ve got not only a nice panoramic view of the park, but no obstructions for photos. Granted, you’re not in the first row at field level, but lots of my shots, including this one of Lehigh Valley starter Ethan Martin, turned out well:
My quest for a foul ball, however, wasn’t going as well as I’d hoped. It was a standoff; I refused to relocate elsewhere, as Murphy’s Law would dictate that as soon as I left the section, a foul ball would land in the area. But in the fifth inning, Canadian Pete Orr came to bat for the IronPigs and fouled off a Yunesky Maya pitch that went off the facing of the suite next to me, bounced twice on the concrete and then into my (winter gloved) hands:
Mission accomplished! I decided to spend the game’s final innings (remember, doubleheader games are only seven innings each in the minors) at field level, and I found a spot next to the Lehigh Valley dugout with this view:
I don’t often sit in this spot at ballparks, but from here, I had a neat angle for shots like this one of IronPigs reliever Jake Diekman:
Diekman didn’t fare too well during his appearance — he went just 0.1 innings and gave up three walks, and when he was pulled, he walked back to the dugout entrance just a few feet to my right with a strange sense of calm. Once inside the dugout, however, he slammed his glove against the bench and didn’t seem too happy as he sat there. The visitors won 5-2, and during the 30-minute break between games, I was on the move again. By this time, I was pretty cold. I’d dressed warmly, but just being outside for that length of time was taking its toll. As I walked around to stay warm, I was glad to find this:
OK, so it didn’t provide refuge from the cold. Actually, I don’t know what it provided refuge from. But it gave me a chuckle.
Before long, the teams came out to warm up for the second game, and I went over to the Syracuse bullpen to watch the warmup of Ryan Perry, who got the start in game two for the Chiefs. I saw him pitch back in 2011 with the Tigers at Comerica Park, so it was neat to see him again. As he was warming up, I could see a colorful tattoo sticking out from beneath his glove. I couldn’t tell what it was from where I was standing, but now that I can enlarge the photo, it looks like a skeleton version of the MLB logo:
I decided to sit in the sun for a bit to get warm, and given that it was shining bright on the first base-side seats, that’s where I ventured. From here, I had a clear view to the plate and could take pictures like this one of Jeff Kobernus, who actually hit a single on this non-textbook swing:
Being in the sun warmed my bones a little, and it wasn’t long before I wondered if I could get a foul ball during the second game; I figured it’d be quite the feat to get balls in games one and two of a doubleheader. I went back to my prime foul ball territory, and in the fifth inning, a foul ball flew back toward the suite level, where it bounced around and landed out of sight. I estimated the ball to be about six suites from where I was standing, and since no one was rushing out from those suites (or any others) to retrieve the ball, I wandered over but the ball had disappeared. I looked for a few moments and wondered what the heck had happened. Then, I noticed that the concrete wall in front of each suite has a drainage hole at the bottom. Could the ball have magically found the hole? I couldn’t tell, so I looked over the fence into the gutter below, and this is what I saw:
So, I blindly reached my hand through the hole into the cold water, felt around and came up with this:
After the Chiefs led the entire game, Lehigh Valley scored late to tie the contest 2-2 and force extra innings. In the bottom of the eighth, Chiefs third baseman Jimmy Van Ostrand got up with the bases loaded and hit a walk-off single:
It was a very full and entertaining day at the ballpark, and as I walked out to my car, I turned and took one last shot of the sunset hitting NBT Bank Stadium:
Fortunately, I didn’t have to drive far to reach my hotel. Remember how I mentioned the Ramada Syracuse earlier? It’s less than three miles from the ballpark, making it the perfect choice for Chiefs fans — no trekking downtown and no driving out to the suburbs to find a hotel. It’s also within sight of the junction of I-81 and I-90, which made getting on the road this morning super easy. I’ll definitely stay here during future visits to Syracuse, and I think it’s the best choice in town for baseball fans. I didn’t have a chance to use the hotel’s on-site amenities, but it’s got a restaurant, as well as a pool and athletic center — perfect for burning off the extra hot dogs you ate at the Chiefs game!
After seeing where the hotel was, I decided to find a supermarket nearby. There’s a Wegman’s about five minutes away, and I always enjoy hitting this brand of store when I’m on my trips, so I made the quick drive to load up on some snacks for the night. If you want something closer to the hotel, Subway, Burger King, Denny’s, a pizza place and an ice cream parlor are all within walking distance. If you need an extra reason to choose this hotel, it’s ranked fourth among Syracuse hotels on TripAdvisor.
When I got back to the Ramada, I took this photo from the outside …
… before heading to my room which was thankfully nice and warm, but also large and inviting — king-sized bed, couch, coffee table and desk, which is where I sat to work on this blog post. I waited till morning to take this shot, which shows the how roomy the room is:
I managed to get about 1,100 words of this blog post written Sunday night while watching Sunday Night Baseball, and checked out just before 7 a.m. this morning. After loading up the car, I took a an early-morning shot of the exterior before hitting the road:
But wait! There’s a little more. If you remember this blog post, you’ll know that when possible, I enjoy checking out collegiate baseball fields. Instead of seeing a collegiate field, though, I stopped at Duffy Fairgrounds, a park in Watertown, NY. Built in 1938, the park has been home to a long list of teams, including the Watertown Pirates (1983 to 1988), and later the Watertown Indians (1989 to 1998), of the New York-Penn League. The park had a classic grandstand, as you can see here:
If you’re wondering, guys including Sean Casey, Brian Giles, Moises Alou, Orlando Merced and Jay Buhner played here during their stint in Watertown. And in 1988, the Watertown Pirates had a 21-year-old first baseman named Tim Wakefield, who hit just .189, began pitching the following season and eventually rode his knuckleball to a pair of World Series titles with the Red Sox. Neat, huh?
One more side note: I was stuck in a long lineup at the border waiting to cross back into Canada, and at one point, I looked out my window and saw this, which shows I was sitting exactly on the line between Canada and the U.S.:
Also, when the border guard asked my reason for being in the U.S., I explained that I’d watched the “Syracuse Chiefs Triple-A baseball team playing a doubleheader.” He responded with: “A Double-A team playing a tripleheader?” I’m guessing he’s not a baseball fan.
Now that my first road trip of the season is in the books, I’m already looking forward. In fact, I’ll have a big announcement this week! As always, you can follow me on Twitter and visit The Ballpark Guide. Your traffic on my website helps support my trips.
In February 2012, I wrote a blog post counting down the 10 best things I’d eaten on my travels in 2010 and 2011. I thought it’d be fun to do, but had no idea of the response I’d get. It’s been one of my top three most-read blog posts to date and my ballpark eating exploits even got mentioned in the Dallas Observer! In honor of Opening Day 2013, it’s time to reveal what things I ate in 2012 were good enough to crack the top 10 list.
As with last year’s list, I’m only considering things I’ve personally eaten and this is an overall list, not just a list of 2012 food. Grab your Rolaids and get ready for your stomach to start growling; you might need to grab a bite after seeing this list. In the list below, you’ll see the name of the item, the park at which I bought it and the team that calls the park home. The number in brackets is last year’s ranking; as you might guess, an “NR” note means it’s new to this list.
** When I released this list, I said I’d post an honorable mention item if I reached 200 followers on Twitter. You responded, so here’s the item, as promised. Thanks for all the follows and for all those who retweeted my message about getting to 200 followers! **
Honorable mention: Curverogie – Peoples Natural Gas Field – Altoona Curve (NR)
I’ve had a number of different types of sandwiches on my ballpark travels, but Altoona’s Curverogie is certainly one that stands out. Introduced to the menu in 2012, it features ham, onions, cheese and an enormous pierogi. As you can see, it was absolutely loaded with ham, and complemented with a nice, crusty roll, it was delicious. It doesn’t quite crack the top 10 because the pierogi was sort of lost among the strong tastes of the ham and onions, but this is still a sandwich I’d buy again and again.
10. Old Bay pretzel – Prince George’s Stadium – Bowie Baysox (6)
Although I ate this pretzel way back in 2011, it’s still the best pretzel I’ve ever eaten. A reader of this blog told me that Bowie didn’t sell the Old Bay pretzel in 2012. I haven’t confirmed that, but if so, it’s too bad. If you like a tangy combination of Old Bay, two types of cheese and pretzel dough, this is a real treat.
9. Shopsy’s Bill Cosby Triple Decker – Rogers Centre – Toronto Blue Jays (4)
Rye bread, corned beef, smoked meat, sauerkraut, cheese and mustard. Mmmm. I tried this enormous sandwich in 2011 and loved it … and then had it again this summer and it was bad enough to slide down five spots on my list. The 2012 version of the sandwich was largely cold, which really didn’t work well. It’s expensive enough that it’s got to be tasty to order, and the verdict is out as to whether I’ll try it again.
8. Clam chowder – Northeast Delta Dental Stadium / LeLacheur Park - N.H. Fisher Cats / Lowell Spinners (8/NR)
We’ve got a tie in the eighth spot on this list! I really enjoyed the clam chowder I had in New Hampshire in 2011, and I’m including the bowl I enjoyed in 2012 in Lowell as a split entry, given that they tasted exactly the same. I had a cold during my visit to Lowell, so the piping hot soup was a welcome relief on my throat. You’ll see above that I had oyster crackers on my soup in New Hampshire, but didn’t bother in Lowell. Still, a really tasty soup for a chilly evening at the park. (Odd how I was sitting in virtually the same spot in both parks, huh?)
7. Steak and cheese sandwich – Fenway Park – Boston Red Sox (NR)
I love red meat, so I’ve had steak and cheese sandwiches at a number of parks. This one was made to order, just like at Subway, which was a nice touch. The bun was soft and doughy, the steak was surprisingly fresh and the addition of hot sauce made this sandwich jump. And, hey, the scenery made this sandwich taste even better.
6. Chickie’s & Pete’s crab fries – Arm & Hammer Park – Trenton Thunder (NR)
Here’s an item that has grown on me since my visit to Trenton last May. I’ll admit I didn’t know what crab fries were, and when I realized they didn’t have anything to do with crab, I was slightly disappointed. But as far as fries go, they were delicious — just the right texture (not bony but not too soft) and the Old Bay was a nice addition. The warmed white cheddar sauce served with them was perfect for dipping, and the portion size was huge, too.
5. Boog’s BBQ turkey sandwich – Oriole Park at Camden Yards – Baltimore Orioles (4)
As I said above, I’m a big red meat fan, but the turkey sandwich I had in B’More in 2011 was outstanding. And meeting 1970 AL MVP Boog Powell at his concession stand was an added bonus. A word to the wise — the horseradish is molten hot. Go easy.
4. Red Osier prime rib sandwich – Frontier Field – Rochester Red Wings (NR)
The highest-debuting entry on this year’s edition of the list, the Red Osier prime rib sandwich in Rochester was amazing. I’ll concede that the photo isn’t overly great; I snapped it fast because I wanted to get eating. The prime rib was the best I’ve eaten outside of a steak house and far better than Quiznos prime rib, for reasons of comparison. I’m definitely hitting Red Osier when I visit Rochester again. Thanks to a few readers of this blog who told me to check this item out — you were absolutely right!
3. Quaker Steak & Lube chicken wings - Rogers Centre – Toronto Blue Jays (3)
Unlike my second experience with the Shopsy’s Bill Cosby Triple Decker, I ate the Quaker Steak & Lube chicken wings again at Rogers Centre this past fall and they were just as good as ever. Hot, meaty and flavorful. There’s nothing else to want in a chicken wing. I went to an actual Quaker Steak & Lube restaurant in Cleveland in 2011 and I’m happy to report the quality of the ballpark wings isn’t any less than at the restaurant.
2. Buffalo chicken macaroni and cheese – Frontier Field – Rochester Red Wings (2)
The buffalo mac and cheese at Frontier Field was the first thing I ate since starting The Ballpark Guide in 2010, and it remains the second-best thing I’ve eaten. Nearly three years after eating it, I still consider is the best mac and cheese I’ve ever eaten and will have a hard time saying no to it when I’m in Rochester this year.
1. Bo Brooks crab cake sandwich – Ripken Stadium – Aberdeen IronBirds (1)
The crab cake sandwich in Aberdeen hangs onto the championship belt for another year. As I wrote last year, it’s the type of sandwich you could eat every inning. The crab tasted fresh and didn’t have that gross seafood odor. The tomato and lettuce were a nice touch, the bun was tasty and the Old Bay (which seems to be prevalent on this list) just topped everything off. I wonder if 2013 will finally be the year I find something better at the ballpark.
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This year, I decided that before each of my road trips, I’d blog about a list of goals that I hoped to accomplish. I did pretty well on my May road trip goals and in case you missed it, listed some goals for my August road trip, too.
I’m largely pleased with how I did goal-wise on this trip. It would’ve been nice to knock off a couple more, but I always try to create some challenging goals to keep things interesting.
Here’s a recap:
1. Get to the top of the Green Monster
Woo hoo! This was the biggest goal for me, and I was lucky to accomplish it. One awesome reader of this blog, Mike, offered to take me up to the Monster as his guest. (Thanks again, Mike!) That didn’t work out, but I was able to take a Fenway Park tour, where I made it all the way up top:
2. Eat something that cracks my ballpark top 10
The jury’s still out on this one. Plus, I’m going to unveil my new top 10 (and possibly top 15) in the new year, so you’ll see the details then.
3. Buy something that says ‘Fenway Park 100 Years’
I really like this logo and was glad to get this hat. I also got one additional thing featuring the logo, which I’ll include in my post about clothing that I got this summer.
4. Get interviewed on one team’s broadcast
This didn’t work out, unfortunately. But, I’m excited to say that I’ve already got one on-air interview loosely scheduled for 2013!
5. Visit a bunch of touristy attractions
I hit a number of cool places in Boston and a few other areas. I’m going to blog about those adventures in the new year, but in the meantime, here’s a picture of me before I boarded the U.S.S. Constitution in Boston:
6. Visit 10 non-MLB/MiLB ballparks
As I recently blogged about, I visited four of these parks on my trip, so I fell short of the 10 I’d hoped to see. Seeing 10 was definitely doable, but it was pretty time consuming, so I decided to scrap this goal early on.
7. Get 10 autographs
I thought I’d have better luck with this goal, but all I managed were three autographs from the Futures at Fenway game:
8. Buy at least one team’s hat
I really wanted to get a hat on this trip, and after I bought my Futures at Fenway hat, I decided to pass on a second hat. So, I didn’t really accomplish the goal, but I still got a hat, so I’m happy.
9. Get 10 baseballs
I’m not a ballhawk, but I do like to try to get a ball whenever I can. I’m happy to say I accomplished this goal with 13 balls:
10. Have some unforeseen fun adventure
Aside from getting up onto the Green Monster, two things stand out from this trip:
a) Sitting in the Lone Red Seat at Fenway Park:
b) Writing my name on Pesky’s Pole:
Every fall, my brother and I take a road trip to watch an NFL game in a different city. We started the tradition a few years ago, and so far, we’ve been to Buffalo, Detroit and Cleveland. Where possible, we add a second sporting event to our itinerary, and I’m always pushing for a baseball game. Last year, when we visited Cleveland to see the Browns, we also went to Progressive Field to see the Indians on Jim Thome Night.
This year, driving to the U.S. to watch football didn’t work with our schedules, so we came up with a great alternative — two days in Toronto to watch the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. I saw the Jays twice last season, but hadn’t been to a game yet in 2012. If my first Jays games of the year weren’t exciting enough, it was an added bonus to see the team in its new uniforms for the first time.
On our way to Toronto, we stopped at a sports store on the edge of the city to buy some shirts for the game. Because it was the end of the season, the Jays stuff was a) discounted and b) sparse. In fact, most of the adult shirts were size small, except there were plenty of these in all sizes:
I finally found two larges — Brandon Morrow and Brett Lawrie, and opted for the latter. I’ll have a photo of that shirt in a later blog entry, but you’ll also see me wearing that shirt in this post.
We got to Toronto about an hour and a half before first pitch, and parked in my secret location. Downtown Toronto is a nightmare for parking, and if you’re close to Rogers Centre, you can expect to pay $25 or $30 to park. (Not as bad as Fenway Park, but still.) The lot I’ve used for years charges exactly $5, and is roughly a five minute walk from the stadium. This view from the lot shows the CN Tower in the background, and if you aren’t familiar with Toronto, the stadium is directly at the base of the tower:
After parking, we cut through the lot and out to the street where this was our view:
Ideal parking, right?
I’ve been to Rogers Centre a million times, so unlike my usual baseball road trips, I didn’t need to document everything with my camera. Instead, I just took a few shots — like this one, looking up at the tower …
… before we picked up our tickets:
Since the gates had already opened, we zipped right inside and watched some of the pregame show with Jamie Campbell and former MLB catcher Gregg Zaun:
Then, we checked out the team shop and I’m glad we did. Since I visited last season, the Jays have added a memorabilia/game-used room, and if you know me, you’ll know this is right up my alley. The crown jewel of the room is the team’s back-to-back World Series trophies which, until now, weren’t available for the general public to see. Here’s me lurking behind them, wearing my new T-shirt:
The room had a bunch of other cool stuff, like game-used bats:
And Yunel Escobar’s hat from July 4. I didn’t inspect it for any non-MLB regulation lettering:
And a ton of game-used and game-issued jerseys:
I didn’t buy anything at the time, but I picked up something very cool for my collection the next day, and I’ll blog about that later on.
By now, the game was just about underway, and we decided to watch an inning from the concourse before getting some lunch. This is the view from the concourse just outside the team shop’s entrance:
From here, I was able to zoom in and get a photo of the guy on my T-shirt, Brett Lawrie:
After the top of the first inning, we decided to grab some food and find another place to sit. We’d bought 500 Level tickets for the game, but I shared one of my patented Rogers Centre tricks with my brother — find a spot behind the railing in the 100 Level concourse, grab two folding chairs and watch the action from there.
On our way around the concourse, we paused so that I could snap a photo of Derek Jeter:
And then, I hit the Quaker Steak & Lube concession for the famous chicken wings. I ate the wings last year, and they were just as good this year — although there were far fewer drumettes than last time. Still, they’re delicious, and for my money, one of the best things you can eat at Rogers Centre:
My brother opted for a foot-long hot dog and got it loaded with onions, cheese, hot peppers and baked beans, among other things:
As we had our lunch, we kept laughing as piece after piece of his hot dog’s toppings dropped to the floor. The loaded dog was just so large that it was practically impossible to eat. By the time he finished, this was the scene between his feet:
Now, I should say that I got special permission to take this photo.
Me: Do you mind if I take a photo of the mess on the floor? You know, for the blog.
Him: Sure, that’s cool.
Me: You aren’t worried that it’ll make you look, you know, like … a bit slobby?
(I should note that he did clean up the mess afterward like a responsible citizen.)
As for our makeshift seating, it was great. I love sitting at the railing at Rogers Centre. Our view was perfect …
… and right above and to our left, we could watch the game’s TV feed:
Despite not having an amazing camera, I could still get some decent shots of the infield:
(I’m not sure what Nick Swisher is doing here.)
And my favorite Yankee, Ichiro Suzuki:
Believe it or not, the Jays won convincingly, which was a welcome surprise. Late in the game, I snapped this panorama from our seats:
And shortly thereafter, got this one of the Jays celebrating the win:
Then, it was out to the pavilion in front of Gate 11 for a photo, which wrapped up a perfect day:
Less than 24 hours later, we were back at Rogers Centre to watch the Jays and Yankees again. I’ll have a blog post about that soon.
Remember how on August 22, I debated going to another Boston Red Sox game and opted to stay in my hotel, get to bed in decent time and hopefully feel better for the last game of my trip? Mission accomplished. I woke up the morning of August 23 feeling great, and although the last game of any road trip can be a bit of a downer, I was excited to drive from Boston to Wappingers Falls, N.Y., to see the Hudson Valley Renegades. This road trip had a bit of a Renegades theme — I’d already seen them on the road three separate times, so it was cool to finally see them at Dutchess Stadium, the place they call home.
The hotel for the last night of my trip was the Hilton Garden Inn Poughkeepsie/Fishkill, and after stopping to visit some neat sights along the route, I checked into the hotel around 4 p.m. I love traveling, seeing new cities and hotels, and I always look forward to staying at Hilton Garden Inns. I’ve had some great experiences at this chain in the past, including in Manchester, N.H., and Lakewood, N.J. And I’m pleased to report this hotel was amazing. Here’s what it looks like from the outside:
When I checked in, the people at the front desk were extremely friendly and given that they knew about my trip from when I booked, were asking me about my travels. I was thrilled to see the room — spacious, clean and very new looking. This shot shows the basics of the room …
… and this one shows the TV and desk, as you can see:
The Hilton Garden Inn Fishkill is less than 10 minutes from Dutchess Stadium, which is perfect. The hotel is also in the middle of a giant complex that includes a bunch of places to shop and eat, like Walmart (perfect for loading up on road trip snacks), Panera Bread and Cold Stone Creamery. I definitely recommend this hotel if you’re in town to see the Renegades, and next time I visit the area, I’ll certainly stay here again.
I didn’t have long to check out the hotel, though, as I wanted to get to the ballpark in good time. Like many other teams on this trip, the Renegades were extremely helpful and had offered to provide me with a media credential. And, as you know, whenever I’m fortunate enough to get one, I like to arrive early and explore.
The drive was a quick one, and pretty soon, I was standing in the unique pavilion in front of the place the locals call “The Dutch.” I use the word unique because I can’t recall a green baseball field on the ground like the one here:
After snapping a few photos outside the park, I went into the team office and picked up the media credential from broadcaster Ben Gellman. I also owe thanks to director of baseball communications Joe Ausanio, who helped set everything up in regards to my pass. Thanks, guys! I peeked into the nearly-empty ballpark and while it was temping to immediately go check things out, I always love to see if I can add a batting practice home run ball to my collection.
I walked down a hill to an area in the left field corner and saw this:
A few baseball collectors were in the area grabbing home run balls and given that I’m not the type to compete with others for balls, I wandered to an empty area and hoped a ball might come my way. There was no immediate action, so I wandered back and forth in the area down this path:
I even stood beneath the scoreboard and looked back up at it for a different-angled view:
A moment later, I heard a ball bounce hard off something wooden, and when I turned to look in the direction of the sound, I saw the ball sitting plainly in the mud. The ball collectors were in the woods a short distance away, and after the ball landed, I didn’t hear them rustling through the underbrush toward the ball, so I walked over and picked it up:
Satisfied with a ball, I continued along the path to the area beyond the right field corner, where I saw the covered batting cages:
There wasn’t much happening in this area, so I decided to retrace my footsteps back along the path and possibly find another ball before heading into the park. Then, I saw this:
And a handful more, until I had eight (mostly wet and soggy) balls. It was a strange ball utopia. The thick brush hid a ton of baseballs and as I was searching, more seemed to keep flying past me. I actually was thinking how awful it’d be to get hit by one, which is entirely possible given that you really can’t see them coming. Not five seconds after I thought this, I felt one go past my ear as I had my head turned. It sounds dramatic, but it was chilling. I could actually feel and hear the air displaced by the ball as it whistled past, and I know that if it had hit me, it would have been bad news. I was actually pretty rattled and my hands were shaking as I sorted the eight balls I’d gathered and took this photo:
The second I snapped the photo, I shoved the balls into my backpack and got the heck out of there. The incident hasn’t necessarily changed how I feel about hanging out behind the fence during BP, but I’m going to be a little more selective about where I go from now on.
After exiting the area in the right field corner, I walked through the players’ parking lot and back toward the front of the ballpark:
By now, the pavilion in front of the main gates was crowded, and I entered the park to begin exploring before it got too packed. I couldn’t resist stopping at the team shop, which was absolutely outstanding. I’ve found that in the New York-Penn League, team shops range from full stores to tiny carts parked on the concourse. Hudson Valley’s is large, roomy and has a ton of Renegades things for sale:
When I made it out to the seating bowl, I saw that the Connecticut Tigers (who I’d already seen at home on this trip) were still taking batting practice:
I opted to continue exploring The Dutch, rather than sit down at field level and watch. I’m glad I did, too, because I’m pleased with how this panorama I took from the park’s suite level turned out. I especially like the mountains in the background:
Remember the baseball field laid out in the ground at the front gate? As I walked along the walkway of the suite level (which you can see in the photo of the front of the park), I got a better view of the field, as well as the people waiting to get in:
After a quick stop in the press box …
… I went up top on the first base side to take this panorama:
During my travels, I noticed this setting for two, which I thought was unique:
The menu, which was sitting on the table, contained such options as fried calamari, penne with vodka sauce, tilapia and cannoli. I didn’t figure the lucky patrons who would soon occupy this spot would appreciate me sitting down and placing my order, so I continued walking.
Speaking of food: You know how food service at some stadium is a complete free-for-all? This dizzying photo shows how the Renegades keep things systematic and sensible at their concession stands:
Next, I went down to field level where I came across some of the neatest close-to-the-action seats I’ve seen in the Minors:
And when I looked back up toward the concourse, a nice waterfall setup reminiscent of the one at Fifth Third Ballpark, home of the West Michigan Whitecaps:
From the third base line, I followed the cross-aisle all the way over to the first base line, where there’s an enormous picnic deck area:
Next up, three cool things you just don’t see in the Major Leagues:
1. A Hudson Valley player cleaning his cleats outside the clubhouse before the game:
2. A bunch of Connecticut players standing in line at one of the concession stands in the concourse:
3. A pair of Renegades walking through the concourse:
When I passed by the team shop again, I paused to look at several Negro league jerseys that caught my eye. They were super cheap (around $15, I think) and while I was tempted to get one, they were all enormous — like XXXXXXXL (for real) and so on. Here’s one from the Brooklyn Royal Giants:
I spent the next little bit wandering around and taking in the sights. A lot of players were signing autographs around the dugouts, and believe it or not, the outfield was opened up to fans who wanted to play catch. I didn’t bother going down to the field, as I have in the past. Instead, I saw this catchy sign and really liked it:
I think I’m a combination of The Fanatic and The Collector and The Cuisine Connoisseur. What about you?
Although dinner time was approaching, the menu didn’t have anything that really enticed me. The selection was good, but I found most of the items to be overpriced. A salad for $6? Hot dogs for $3.50? Seems a little pricey by NYPL standards.
Once the fans finished up their game of catch in the outfield, I went over to the Hudson Valley bullpen area down the first base line and took some action shots of the warmups:
Second baseman Thomas Coyle:
First baseman Michael Williams:
Catcher Jake DePew:
While I was down here, I captured my press pass:
When the game finally began (I should note I’ve somehow managed to write 1,600 words before the first pitch), I took a spot above the third base dugout to snap some action photos, including Hudson Valley starter Jeff Ames:
Connecticut outfielder Zach Kirksey, facing some high heat:
See the tiger-striped wrist tape? Love it! Here’s a closer shot of another player’s tape that I snapped in the pre-game:
Next, it was behind home plate for an inning, where I enjoyed this view:
Then, over to the first base line for a few more action shots, like this one of Hudson Valley’s Marty Gantt sliding into second:
The PA announcer at The Dutch is the best I’ve ever heard. He talked often throughout the game but was never obnoxious, as some people with unlimited access to a microphone can be. The most impressive part of the evening was something I couldn’t document with my camera, so I’ll share it here. Sometime before this game, an area husband and wife were killed in a car accident, leaving three children behind. The team’s PA announcer challenged fans to make donations to help out the family, and as an interactive twist, fans could take their money right up to the PA window and the announcer would declare the amount. The donations ranged from children handing over pocket change to businesses putting up three figures, and despite the horrible circumstances of the fundraising, it was exciting — and very heart warming — to witness. By the end of the night, more than $3,000 was raised, which says a great deal about the community spirit of the Renegades fan base.
I spent a chunk of the mid to late innings behind the third base dugout, and in the last inning, moved back behind home plate where I enjoyed this view:
The game was an
offensive defensive display; the Renegades won 1-0 while outhitting Connecticut 5-3. Ames was awesome, pitching five innings of one-hit ball while striking out eight Tigers. Although it was the last game of my big road trip of 2012, I’ve since attended a pair of MLB games that I’ll be blogging about soon.