Results tagged ‘ Eastern League ’
If you’re reading this post, thank you.
Thanks for checking out this blog, whether this is the first time you’ve stopped by or you’ve been reading about my adventures for years. Due to your readership, I’m thrilled to say that The Ballpark Guide placed 13th in the MLBlogs Top 100 for 2012, which has earned me this snazzy logo:
You can see this logo on the top of the menu on the right side of the page, where it’ll remain for the duration of the year. Back in 2011, I placed 34th, so I’m ecstatic about the jump up to the 13th spot. I normally finish between 10th and 15th in MLBlogs’ monthly rankings during the season, but slip back a bit during the off-season, as I’m obviously not taking baseball road trips. All this to say that an overall finish of 13th is really exciting. I’ve got my sights set on a top 10 spot in 2013, so please keep checking back. Also, if you click the Top 100 banner on this page, you’ll get a list of the top 100 MLBlogs, and you’re certain to find some great blogs to follow, regardless of where your baseball interests lie. There’s not a day that goes past in which I don’t read at least someone’s MLBlog, and there’s a lot of excellent content to enjoy.
Although 2012 was a great year for The Ballpark Guide, 2013 has been off to an exciting start, too. As some of you know, I studied journalism at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada, and in the current issue of the school’s alumni magazine, there’s a photo and short write-up about me! Here’s the cover of the magazine, which features Muhammad Ali, one of my all-time heroes, which makes it extra exciting:
The write-up about me is in the Class Notes section, which is the section I always enjoy reading most. It contains various updates from different alumni:
But wait! I’ve got one last neat thing to share. A few months ago, a Portland, Maine law firm called Troubh Heisler got in touch with me because its staff had seen my fan guide to Hadlock Field, home of the Eastern League’s Portland Sea Dogs, and liked the panorama shot I’d taken. The law firm was in the midst of revamping its website and wanted to use the picture, given that it wanted banner shots of Portland scenes and the fact that it’s the Sea Dogs’ law firm.
So, if you go to the Troub Heisler website, you’ll see scrolling photos at the very top. Wait for a few to pass and you’ll eventually see the one I took. Or, if you’d rather see it right here, here it is:
And if you click the “Resources” link on the home page, you’ll come across a list of community resources and you’ll see The Ballpark Guide is under the “Special Recognition” header. Pretty exciting!
Anyway, thanks again for all your readership and comments. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that if you enjoy this blog, please check out The Ballpark Guide and tell your baseball-loving friends about it if you can. I know I’ve said it before, but your visits to my website help me pay for my trips, and I really appreciate all your support.
Here’s to an exciting 2013!
The morning of Thursday, May 24 came very quickly. It was the final day of my road trip, and given that I’d averaged about four hours of sleep per night over the last few days, the 5:30 a.m. alarm was a bit of a jolt. But if there’s one thing that makes me move quickly in the morning, it’s knowing there’s a baseball game to attend.
I was in Frederick for the night after the previous day’s Keys game, and my day would begin with a two-and-a-half hour drive to Altoona. The Curve, who are the Eastern League affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, were playing a 10:30 a.m. game, and I’d arranged to have a stadium tour with Mike Passanisi, the Curve’s director of communications. The tour was scheduled for 9 a.m., which meant I wanted to get on the road by 6:15 a.m. or so. The route from Frederick to Altoona includes many small back roads, and the drive was painfully slow. I can tell you I was thrilled when this appeared ahead of me:
Yep, Peoples Natural Gas Field, straight head! I ended up being 10 to 15 minutes late to our tour because of ridiculous traffic, so I parked quickly in the parking garage behind the outfield fence …
… and hustled along the sidewalk to get to the stadium as quickly as I could:
When I picked up my media pass, I went upstairs to the press box, where I had this view while I waited for Mike:
Mike arrived a few minutes later, and despite his busy morning, made time to take me around the stadium and show me all the highlights. We checked out a few of the suites, including this one:
And then went down to the field, which never, ever gets old:
After we were on the field, we went through the tunnel to tour several places most people don’t get to see. But you will now! We went through the batting cage/training area, where a number of Curve players were getting loose:
I took a picture of this funny sign posted outside the room above:
We then went into the press conference room, which definitely has similarities to the rooms in MLB stadiums:
I was tempted to sit at the desk and shout, “No comment!” but decided to repress that urge so the tour could continue.
Next up were the home and visitors’ clubhouses, which were outstanding. Both were full of players, so I obviously didn’t take any photos, but it was definitely a highlight to see. Afterward, we climbed up to the concourse where I documented the team’s 2010 Eastern League championship banner:
A banner with the team’s 2005 opening day roster:
(Sorry, but as a Jays fan, I need to point out Rajai Davis and Jose Bautista.) This banner was part of a series around the concourse of each opening day roster in the Curve’s history. It’s the first type of display I can recall, and I think it’s a great way to pay tribute to past teams and players. Really cool. The concourse is also lined with banners of past stars, including Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen. I love how the banner combines a picture of him then and now — really smart:
The tour zipped right along, but it was great talking about the stadium’s features with Mike. I’ll be highlighting more of them when I write the official fan guide to Peoples Natural Gas Field for TheBallparkGuide.com.
After our tour, I went up to the second deck on the third base side to capture the stadium in panorama form:
If you missed the roller coaster behind the right field fence, look again. It’s not part of the ballpark, but it’s still one of the coolest features you’ll see at any park. The roller coaster is part of Lakemont Park, an amusement park just beyond the ballpark’s fences. The roller coaster you see here …
… is called the Skyliner, and it’s one of four in the park. The park’s crown jewel is the Leap-the-Dips coaster, which opened in 1902 and is the oldest in-use roller coaster in the world.
After being up top, I continued wandering and captured a shot of the sign out front of the park:
Mike said the new logo on the sign was just a week old (Peoples Natural Gas Field was called Blair County Ballpark through last season) and the new sign isn’t completely finished. Soon, bricks will be added to make the sign more in line with the ballpark’s design.
By this time, Mike had re-appeared on the field with a Curve player who was fielding questions from fans over the PA system. It was a neat thing to see — fans asking about his favorite subjects in school, his favorite holiday, etc., certainly improves the player/fan connection. I definitely think more teams should do this:
As I continued walking, I spotted the players’ parking lot behind the first base side of the stadium:
With, of course, a Range Rover:
Range Rovers seem to be the popular choice among ballplayers. In fact, I wrote a blog entry a while back about players’ vehicles, and it’s a fun read.
I then changed direction and headed down the third base concourse, where I stopped to check out the team’s “Road to the Show” alumni board:
Here’s a close-up of a couple years:
I also checked out the Rail Kings party deck in the left field corner, which offers a great view of the park and also includes small TVs built into the fence so that you can watch the game broadcast or check out how the Pirates are doing:
The bleachers in left field also provided a perfect view, and I decided I’d spend a few innings out here once the game started:
The kids’ area at Peoples Natural Gas Field included inflatable games …
… and arcade-style attractions:
I went to check out the team’s store down the third base line:
And as the game began, captured this quick shot of the ballpark’s impressive scoreboard:
All this walking worked up an appetite, so after spending the first inning in the outfield bleachers, where I had a close-up view of the team’s mascot Al Tuna (get it?) …
… I decided to get some breakfast/lunch. Mike had earlier recommended the Curverogie, a new menu item for 2012:
While this sandwich is certainly excessive, it was delicious. It wasn’t skimpy on the ham, and while the perogie sort of got lost, the ham, cheese and onions were tasty:
After eating, I documented my media pass, as I’ve been doing during each stop on this trip:
Then, it was time to find a seat along the third base side so I could capture some of the action on the field. Here’s Altoona starter Shairon Martis, who was solid through six innings and got the win:
And Curve third baseman Jeremy Farrell, who’s the son of Blue Jays manager John Farrell:
Before long, it was time to hit the road. I had to sneak out of this ballgame a little bit early so I could drive the four hours or so north to Buffalo for that night’s Bisons game at Coca-Cola Field. I absolutely hate leaving a game early, but sometimes it’s necessary to fit into my schedule. All in all, it was a great visit to Altoona. The park, built in 1999, is fantastic and if you’re in the area, it’s definitely a must visit.
Up next is the story of my visit to Buffalo later on May 24.
After the completion of the morning’s Lehigh Valley IronPigs/Louisville Bats game, I drove back to the Trenton area for the night game between the Trenton Thunder and the Akron Aeros, who are the AA Eastern League affiliates of the Yankees and Indians, respectively. This day marked the first time I’ve watched two different games in two different locations in one day — perhaps the only thing better in baseball than a traditional doubleheader. Although I had time to check into my hotel in Trenton, I decided to head straight to Mercer County Waterfront Park, and arrived around 3 p.m.
On Google Maps, it looks like this ballpark is perfect to give you a shot at snagging some home run balls during batting practice. When I got back to the area behind the outfield fence, though, I was early enough that the players weren’t hitting just yet. So, I waited here:
After a short while, BP still hadn’t yet started, so I decided to go to the front of the park, get my press pass, take some photos and wander for a bit. I like what the team has done with the area around the stadium. There are a ton of banners recognizing former Thunder players, including Nomar Garciaparra:
You wouldn’t normally associate Garciaparra, a longtime Red Sox player, with a team affiliated with the Yankees. But Garciaparra played in Trenton in 1995 when it was a Red Sox affiliate, and hit .267 with 47 RBIs and 35 steals. This is what the front of the ballpark looks like …
… and here’s the scene in panorama form:
After I picked up my press pass, I noticed a coach bus to my right, and saw the Aeros unloading:
I also took a photo of my press pass, which was provided by Bill Cook, the team’s director of public relations:
Like the other teams on this trip, the Thunder were very accommodating and I’d meet Bill later on.
Once I toured for a while, I began to hear the bats cracking on the field, so I peeked through the fence and saw BP was getting underway:
I headed quickly back to the area behind the right field fence and waited. And waited. And waited. The problem was, no one was hitting home runs. I heard a lot go off the wall and while some may have gone out in left, nothing came my way for a very long time. Eventually, I heard a giant splash and turned to see a ball floating in the Delaware River behind me:
This is a neat feature of this park — the river is so close behind the fence that a home run can actually land in the water on the fly, much like at San Francisco’s AT&T Park. With the river right behind you, this area is picturesque and sort of reminds me of how the Merrimack River runs right by New Hampshire’s Northeast Delta Dental Stadium. The lone knock on hanging out for BP balls is that the grass is completely covered in goose turds, so it’s impossible to avoid stepping in some. After about 45 minutes without a shot at a ball and with my shoes in need of some wiping, I pulled the plug on trying to get a ball and returned to the front of the park. As I did in Lehigh Valley earlier in the day, I used my press pass to get into the park early and walk around. Again, it was awesome having the place virtually to myself, with the exception of the staff. Look how deserted the concourse was:
And the same goes for the seating bowl:
Watching BP is one of the best things any baseball fan can do. Not only does it enhance your enjoyment of your visit, but you always learn something and get a better appreciation for the skill of the players. It’s difficult to see BP at the Minor League level because parks don’t open early enough. So, I took advantage of the situation and sat on a picnic table and just took it all in:
Soon enough, the Aeros came out to get warmed up:
Check it out — 5:02 p.m. and still an hour to go before the gates opened. I was in heaven!
I moved all around the park during BP, including down to field level on the first base side where I took this panorama:
And then I moved behind the first base dugout to get some close shots of the Aeros hitting:
At 5:30 p.m., I went to the home plate concourse to meet Bill, who’d agreed to give me a tour of the park. We were outside at one point and he pointed at the large party suite that looked out onto the field. He said the room was decorated with Yankees memorabilia, and as I peered through the glass, I could see a Phil Hughes Yankees jersey displayed. “That’s neat — Phil Hughes,” I said. Bill smiled and said there was a more impressive jersey for me to see. When we went into the suite, I got a close-up shot of what was stitched inside the jersey’s collar:
And took a second photo:
Yep, an authentic Babe Ruth game-worn jersey! The jersey was given to the Thunder by a big-time Yankees collector, and it’s simply one of the coolest things you’ll ever see at any MiLB park. Although the rest of the suite’s items might pale in comparison to the Ruth jersey, they are still very impressive. How about a signed shot of Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit?
Or an Andy Pettite signed jersey from a rehab start:
Here’s a signed photo of Yankees legends Dave Winfield and Don Mattingly:
The tour with Bill was great. We looked around a number of areas of the park and talked baseball, which is always great. It was really nice of him to give me the pre-game time because unless you’ve been around it, you can’t imagine how much work goes into prepping for a game. Everyone wears a ton of hats in order to make your visit to the ballpark enjoyable. Thanks again for your time, Bill!
After Bill and I parted ways, I checked out the Thunder team shop, which blended Thunder merchandise with Yankees stuff:
And I also looked through a number of game-used bats that were on sale, although I didn’t buy one:
At 6 p.m., the park’s gates opened and the concourse started to fill up:
Soon, the players came out and began signing autographs along the base lines. While it was tempting to go get a ball signed, I resisted the urge. Technically, having a press pass means you can’t ask for autographs, and while I could’ve removed the pass and no one might have been the wiser, I thought this would be a bush league play. So, no asking for autographs on this trip for me. But several fans, including those getting Abraham Almonte’s signature, were crowded around the dugouts:
A few minutes later, I saw something pretty cute. Like the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, the Thunder have a golden retriever who comes out onto the field and carries a basket in its mouth. I’m not fully aware of the official role of the dog — I think it delivers a ball to the umpire, perhaps? — but the kids love it. (Update: A reader, Ben, told me that the dog is an honorary bat “boy” for the first inning, and come to think of it, I’ve seen this at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium in New Hampshire, too. Thanks, Ben!) Anyway, the dog came out and sat on the grass for a few moments, and when Trenton’s Corban Joseph came over to give the dog’s belly a scratch, the dog flopped over completely:
Shortly before the start of the game, I figured it was time to get something to eat. Nearly everyone I talked to said to try the crab fries at the Chickie’s & Pete’s concession stand, which is located on the third base side. I love seafood, but had never heard of crab fries. Would they be fries topped with crab meat? That’s what I was picturing, so I was a little confused when I picked up my order and it appeared to be regular fries with Old Bay seasoning covering them:
They also included white cheese dip, and while everything was good, I’m not sure if I see the huge appeal. Let me know if I’m missing something. Thankfully, the cup of fries was large, so it took me a while to eat everything. The game began as I stuffed my face, and I moved behind home plate after I was finished eating to take this panorama:
While I was there, a player hit a long foul ball that flew over the third base concourse and right out of the park. There didn’t seem to be a flurry of fans running for the exits, so I walked quickly over to where it left the park, looked out and saw this:
I also saw a man and his kids heading toward it, so I was a few moments too late. Since I was in the area, I found a seat on the third base side and started shooting some action photos, which is something I want to do more frequently this season. Here’s Akron starter Paolo Espino, who had a brilliant 2011 season but ended up with the loss on the night:
Aeros third baseman Kyle Bellows:
A cool shot of the Trenton dugout:
And what would’ve been a great action shot of Abraham Almonte sliding into third base, if not blocked by Espino, who was backing up the play:
Trenton catcher Jose Gil (I think) making contact:
After a couple innings seated on the third base side, I switched over to behind the first base dugout, where I enjoyed this view:
The game itself was entertaining. Trenton led from wire to wire, but Akron scored single runs in the seventh and eighth to narrow the deficit to 3-2, which is how the game ended up. Trenton’s pitchers combined for 10 strikeouts, too.
I spent the last inning up in the concourse behind home plate, where the view was great. My camera gets a little grumpy in the dark, but I took this shot, which I think looks neat:
By the end of the game, I was pooped. It’d been a very long day with lots of sun and a ton of excitement. But the next day would be awesome, too! I’d be in Wilmington, DE, and Frederick, MD, for two games and two radio interviews. I’ll have those blog posts up as soon as I can!
Last week, I blogged about the six caps I’ve bought during my travels around Major League and Minor League Baseball.
This week, I want to continue the sports-centered wardrobe theme and talk about some of the shirts I’ve bought and received through stadium giveaways. As I’ve said, I don’t buy a hat at every park I visit. The same holds true for shirts and other memorabilia. Still, when the price is right and I like the look of something, I’ll add it to my collection.
Dating back to my first baseball road trips for TheBallparkGuide.com in 2010, here’s what I’ve picked up:
Cleveland Indians – Travis Hafner jersey shirt
This isn’t a traditional jersey shirt; you’ll see that it has Hafner’s nickname, Pronk, on the back. I’m a Hafner fan, and thought this shirt was unique.
New Hampshire Fisher Cats 1
When I visited New Hampshire’s (now called Northeast Delta Dental Stadium) in September 2010, the team was about to play what would be its final playoff game of the season. As such, most of the products in the team shop were on sale. I picked up this T-shirt for under $10.
New Hampshire Fisher Cats 2
I got this one for around $10, too. Not bad for a Nike product, and I like the look of it.
Great Lakes Loons
When I watched the Great Lakes Loons play in May 2011, I visited the team shop during a long rain delay. This shirt was priced way less than other comparable products, so I bought it. What I didn’t notice at the time is that the logo is significantly closer to the left sleeve. (Hence the price reduction.) Still, I like this shirt because it’s one baseball shirt that isn’t gaudy.
West Michigan Whitecaps
Speaking of gaudy (in a good way, of course), this bright red Whitecaps shirt featuring their logo is eye catching. Most of the shirts I’ve gotten are white, so this one stands out in my closet.
Fort Wayne TinCaps
Perhaps partly influenced by my amazing visit to beautiful Parkview Field, this TinCaps shirt is one of my favorites. I like its design and the fact it uses the MiLB logo in a prominent spot. Plus, who doesn’t like angry apples?
Lake County Captains
I wasn’t around to see Lake County win the first half of the Midwest League championship in 2010, but I liked this shirt enough to buy it in 2011.
I’m a big fan of this simple Shorebirds T-shirt by Nike. I like Delmarva’s logo and the simple design of this shirt.
Baltimore Orioles 1
When I was in B-More, I was lucky enough to attend a game with a T-shirt giveaway. The T-shirt this day was J.J. Hardy.
Baltimore Orioles 2
Last summer, Chevrolet heavily promoted the Volt at MLB stadiums, including Camden Yards. If you signed up to receive Chevrolet marketing material, you got a free T-shirt. Count me in! And, if you wanted to sign up multiple times, you’d get multiple shirts ….
Washington Nationals 1
A couple days after I was in Baltimore, I was in the nation’s capital over the July 4 long weekend. The Nats gave away American flag-themed T-shirts at the gate.
Washington Nationals 2
Just like in Baltimore, Chevrolet had a kiosk promoting the Volt. I managed to get, uh, a few of these shirts, too.
On July 4, I stopped in Binghamton to see the B-Mets battle the Portland Sea Dogs before an impressive fireworks show at NYSEG Stadium. During the game, I picked up what’s become one of my favorite items — a B-Mets pullover. These are the shirts the players wear during BP, in the dugout and while warming up. It’s awesome.
But what about game-used items? You’ll just have to check back tomorrow for some goodies that fall under that category.
I’ve taken several thousand photos since I began traveling and compiling research for TheBallparkGuide in the summer of 2010. (If you’re new to this blog and are curious about where I’ve visited, look at the tag cloud on the right side of the menu or click here.) The vast majority of my photos focus on the elements of each ballpark I visit, but one thing I’ve noticed is that I’ve missed getting photos of myself in most locations. I often travel alone, and while it’s possible to hold the camera at arm’s length to shoot myself, some of these photos don’t turn out that great.
That said, I’ve got a handful of photos taken at different locations that I’m posting below. Click the date to read my blog about the visit.)
The second ballpark I visited, back on July 17, 2010, was Auburn’s Falcon Park. While I was snapping shots of the front of the ballpark, the man who lives next door to the facility offered to take my shot:
Later that summer, I traveled to Cleveland for two games on Aug. 7 and Aug. 8. During the second game, I got a few autographs around the visitors dugout, and then had my photo taken by another fan while sitting on the Indians dugout:
… and a day later, took one of me along the fence during batting practice. I snagged two balls here:
I toured around Michigan in May 2011, and watched the second of two Detroit Tigers games on May 25. Unfortunately, this game was called because of the rain after a few innings. While the tarp was still on the field, an usher took my photo:
On June 27, I watched the Hagerstown Suns play at Municipal Stadium. Bryce Harper was hurt and didn’t play, but that didn’t stop me from finding his truck in the parking lot and taking a photo of myself in front of it:
And on the second day, up on a deck in the left field corner:
The third-last game I watched in 2011 was on July 31 at Hadlock Field, home of the Portland Sea Dogs. Before entering the ballpark, my wife took a photo of me out front:
The Sea Dogs are the AA affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, and Hadlock Field is equipped with a mini green monster. During our visit, fans were able to play catch on the field before the game. Here’s me in front of the scoreboard:
And while throwing balls off the wall and catching them:
And pretending to relay them to the imaginary cut-off man. (I can’t lie.)
As always, thanks for reading. If you don’t do so already, check me out on Twitter.
Yesterday, I heard about the heavy flooding caused by Tropical Storm Lee affecting the area around Harrisburg, PA. Naturally, my thoughts drifted to baseball and the Harrisburg Senators because I visited the ballpark this summer.
Today, I saw an unbelievable image Tweeted by Senators third baseman Tim Pahuta. The shot was an overhead view of Harrisburg’s Metro Bank Park, where I visited on June 24. You can read about that visit here.
Here’s Pahuta’s image:
As you can see above, the devastation caused by the flooded Susquehanna River is awful. First and foremost, I hope that everyone in the area is OK. Second, I hope the flooding will soon go down and Metro Bank Park can be up and running as soon as is humanly possible.
I placed 10 numbers on Pahuta’s image which I’ve linked to 10 images below. I took the shots below this summer when things in the area were normal.
1. This is the main concourse of the ballpark just after you enter through the main gates. The structure to the left of the #1 includes the team’s offices and team shop. Here’s what it looks like from midway along the concourse, just above the #10:
2. This is the Ollie’s Bargain Outlet Cheap Seats section, which I sat in for a couple innings. A fan in this section who catches a home run gets a gift card to Ollie’s Bargain Outlet. Just behind this section, you can see the door to the team shop and a concession stand:
3. This number marks one of my favorite spots in Metro Bank Park. The area features bar stools and a bar, and I spent some time in this area, too:
4. Just to the right of #4, you can see the batter’s eye, which is well above field level but appears to have water right to its bottom. I took the photo below from behind the batter’s eye, looking roughly toward #3.
5. Here’s the all-you-can-eat section, which is where I bought my ticket during my visit. As you can see, there are three sections of seating directly under the #5, and the concession stand for this area is just above the #5. The scoreboard is right above it all:
6. This area is another bar stool-style seating area, which is directly above Harrisburg’s bullpen. Below is the pre-game view from directly beneath #6 during my visit:
7. Metro Bank Park’s smoking section is in this area. Just beyond it, is the player and staff parking lot. Here’s what it looked like in June:
8. In this area, the ballpark has a large group area, complete with concession stands, family entertainment and a stage. I took the shot below from under the stadium overhang, looking out toward the #8:
9. One of the neatest features of Metro Bank Park is all the other things you can do on the island. Above, #9 is a series of huts that house features such as kayak rentals, mini-golf and other related activities. The shot below was taken from the roadway and is looking toward the river:
10. Though you can’t tell if they were up at the time of the flood, the whole area around #10 is a kids play area, complete with inflatable rides and other attractions:
The devastation is hard to believe, really. The Senators are in the midst of an Eastern League playoff run right now (playing all their games on the road) and I’m sure they’re doing all they can to bring a championship to Harrisburg.
As you may have read about here, I visited Manchester’s (take deep breath) Northeast Delta Dental Stadium in the final couple days of July to watch the AA Fisher Cats against the Reading Phillies.
And as I mentioned, I got a few autographs that I’m excited to share. Last fall when I visited Manchester, I got current Blue Jay Edwin Encarnacion and future Jay Adeiny Hechavarria on balls, and even ran into Encarnacion in my hotel the morning after the game.
Anyway, prior to the game on July 28, I got a ball signed by six different guys on the Fisher Cats.
In the first photo, from top to bottom, are the signatures of shortstop Jonathan Diaz, third baseman Craig Stansberry and the Fisher Cats bullpen catcher, whose name I can’t recall:
In the photo below, you’re looking at the autographs of speedy centerfielder Anthony Gose, third baseman Mark Sobolewski and a guy (#12) I can’t identify. The current #12 on New Hampshire’s roster is Danny Perales, but this signature isn’t his. If anyone knows, I’d love to know!
Of all the autographs, I’m pretty excited to have Gose’s signature. He should be a Blue Jay in the next season or so, thanks to his speed. This season, he has 61 steals through 126 games; in 2010, he swiped 45 bases and a year earlier, he had 76!
Here’s a picture of Gose signing just after I got him:
As you may have read about here, I watched the Portland Sea Dogs play at Hadlock Field on July 31. Hadlock Field certainly has its charms, but one of its drawbacks is the ability for fans to get autographs.
If you want the visiting club’s players to sign, it’s easy to gather around the bullpen and between the bullpen and dugout. For the home side, it’s a different story, because the bullpen is beyond the right field fence and there’s a restricted access group area down the first base line.
All that said, I did manage to get one autograph during my visit, and it came easily. The Sea Dogs had one player sign in the concourse prior to game, and I got him on a ball:
Who is it, you ask?
Stephen Fife. He may not be a household name, but he’s definitely a guy I’ll keep my eyes on. With Portland, he was 11-4 in 18 starts with an ERA of 3.66 and was a 2011 (and 2010) Eastern League all-star. (Keep in mind Portland has a winning percentage of only around .420ish.
It turns out that Fife was traded the same day I got him to sign (not sure if the deal was made before or after I got the autograph) but he was part of the three-team deal that sent Erik Bedard to Boston. Fife ended up in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, and is currently pitching for the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts. He hasn’t suffered any post-trade blues; he’s 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA and 11 strikeouts in 11 innings.
Hard to know where Fife’s career will go, but as a former third-round draft pick, it’s clear MLB scouts think he has what it takes to get to the big leagues. It’ll be fun to watch how the rest of his season progresses and where he ends up.
The day to visit Portland’s Hadlock Field had finally arrived. I’ve been looking forward to this particular ballpark for roughly a year, since I first started my regular baseball travels.
Hadlock Field is home to the Sea Dogs, who are the Eastern League AA affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. There’s a replica Green Monster in the outfield, which is one of the neatest things to see in all the Minor Leagues.
Even better than seeing the Monster, however, was the chance to play catch below it. Yep, the Sea Dogs were giving fans the chance to play catch for an hour prior to the game, so I was pumped for that. And unlike the games in which I travel alone, my wife could be my catch partner this time.
Catch began at 10 a.m and ran for 1:15. The game began at 1 p.m., and unfortunately, fans weren’t allowed to leave the ballpark. Don’t get me wrong — I like getting to the game early, but spending that amount of time before the game was a bit much, especially given the day’s extreme heat and the zero shade throughout the entire seating area.
Anyway, we arrived around 10 a.m. and bought our tickets. Here’s mine:
And here’s both of ours:
Because we didn’t need to play catch the whole time, we took a walk around the outside of the ballpark to look for balls and see the sights. Hadlock Field is directly beside the Portland Exposition Building, which is home to the NBA Developmental League’s Maine Red Claws. I imagine this doesn’t rank too high on the caring meter for most of you, but if you’re into basketball, you might be interested:
The walk around Hadlock Field proved pretty uneventful. The path around the stadium’s left, or third base side is blocked off, while there’s not much to see around the other side, either. From the parking lot, you can look back and see the ballpark’s picnic area and some of the field:
We also found the rear entrance to Portland’s clubhouse:
And one ball:
I didn’t feel the need to add it to my collection, though.
As you can see from the photo below, the area behind the outfield fence is fenced off, so finding batting practice balls is next to impossible here:
With nothing more to see back there, we headed back to the pavilion in front of Hadlock Field where I got my picture taken with a statue of Slugger, the Sea Dogs’ mascot:
Before we went in, I took a photo of the front of the ballpark …
… and a panorama to show the whole front area:
When we got in, we went straight to the field, which we had to access via the left field corner. As always, it was awesome to be on a pro ball field, and there were already a bunch of people playing catch:
re’s me at the base of the Monster:
From down here, we had a great view of the scoreboard:
And the Citgo logo and Coke bottle, just like Fenway:
I should also mention the Sea Dogs gave the first bunch of fans Sea Dogs balls to play catch with, which was pretty nice:
Here’s a panorama from field level:
Around 11 a.m., we went over to the first base line which had a tiny bit of shade around the picnic area. A couple minutes later, the Altoona Curve (affiliate of the Pirates) players arrived:
Before we left the field, the Sea Dogs came on and started stretching. There were still maybe 100 fans on the field when they came out; definitely something that doesn’t happen every day!
After walking around the concourse for a bit, we decided to grab something to eat. The basic menu at Hadlock Field is below:
Once we ate, we went to the team shop, which is disappointingly the worst I’ve seen at any level. It’s all behind the counter, so you can’t actually touch anything, try anything on or just browse. You stand there like you’re at McDonald’s, and place your order. See the photo below? All that stuff is unreachable. I’m not sure why the Sea Dogs do it this way, but it’s not very fan friendly:
Something that was neat to see, though, was how the Sea Dogs were selling Bryce Harper T-shirts on the concourse outside the team store. If you’re missing something here, don’t worry. There’s no Sea Dogs/Harper connection, but you can’t deny that Harpermania has spread throughout the Minor Leagues:
These prices were good, but nothing could compare to my experience of seeing Harper a month or so ago in Hagerstown. If you haven’t read this post, I can guarantee you’ll enjoy it.
Hadlock Field has a neat feature in the concourse down the first base line; photos of each team’s ballpark in the Eastern League:
This is the first time I’ve seen something like this, and my only knock on it as that it’s hugely outdated — old photos, old logos, etc. Still, though, pretty cool.
Just a little further along is the team’s hall of fame, which includes guys such as Kevin Millar and Mark Kotsay:
After spending some time in the concourse, we went back out toward the field. I’d sort of been avoiding it because it was SO HOT. I’m not normally one to care about the weather either way, but it was brutal.
And a wall covered in current Red Sox jersey graphics:
Off to one side of the press box is the team’s banners:
I then climbed up in front of the press box and took a panorama of the whole ballpark:
(See the lack of shade? For the record, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing … but it’s not ideal on super hot days.)
Anyway, we then went down the third base line to watch Altoona warm up:
Another knock on Hadlock Field? You can’t get close to the area in which the Dogs warm up without having a seat in the picnic area. Lame:
Down the third base line, however, you can stand on a little runway directly above the visitors’ bullpen, which is neat. There’s also a hilarious sign:
I watched Altoona’s starter Aaron Pribanic warming up for a bit:
In case you’re wondering, Portland’s bullpen is up high above the fence in right-center. I’ve never seen anything like it:
As for the game, I was most excited to watch Chih-Hsien Chiang. I saw him a while back when the Sea Dogs were in Binghamton, and he’s incredible. Look at his stats:
(He was since traded to Seattle for Erik Bedard.)
We sat for most of the game up in the bleachers along the third base line, with this view:
And occasionally, we’d go into the concourse for a bit of shade. (Though the temperature was nearly as hot.) There were a number of TV sets there to help you keep an eye on the game, but the picture quality was lacking just a bit:
Here’s an action shot of Chiang I took in around the sixth inning:
Portland led the game 8-3 in the ninth, but Altoona scored two runs to make it a little more interesting. Final score: Portland 8, Altoona 5. The teams also combined for 26 hits, including three Sea Dogs home runs. The game lasted until around 4:20 p.m., so after more than six hours inside Hadlock Field, we left.
On our way back to the parking lot, we saw Altoona’s bus waiting in the team lot behind the first base side:
I should say that I got one pretty cool autograph at this ballpark, which I’ll blog about later this week.
In the meantime, I’m putting the last touches on my next trip of the season, which will begin in a couple weeks. I’ll blog about it soon.